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Prop 30 Revenue Remains Unknown As SD Unified Votes On First Budget

Governor Jerry Brown speaks in San Diego to campaign for his tax initiative, Proposition 30.
Christopher Maue
Governor Jerry Brown speaks in San Diego to campaign for his tax initiative, Proposition 30.
San Diego School Budget Cuts
Prop 30 Revenue Remains Unknown As SD Unified Votes On First Budget
GUESTRichard Barrera, San Diego Unified School Board Member

CAVANAUGH: After years of budget cuts and teacher layoff, California voters decided to pay more for education and passed Proposition 30 last month. Last night, San Diego unified school direct's board confronted the problem that the proposition is not going to solve their budget woes. The process for next year begins this month, and preliminary numbers show a potential $80 million deficit. Joining us is my guest, San Diego unified School Board member Richard Barrera. Welcome back. BARRERA: Thank you, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Voters must have thought that they were solving the problem of chronic deficits when they voted to boost the sales tax under Prop 30. Why are you projecting a deficit? BARRERA: Well, first of all, it's important to understand where we are at the stage in the process. We are required, and it's this disconnect between the school budget process and the state budget process, which is always a problem. At this point in the year, we're required to submit what's called a first interim report to the county office of education that before Governor Brown will come out with his proposed budget January. So we are required to project no increase of revenue even with the passage of prop 30. I don't think anybody believes that we're going to have no increase in revenue so much we're eagerly anticipating Governor Brown's January budget. We have no increase in revenue, we've got a problem. But you're exactly right. When voters went to the polls in November, they went with a commitment to stop this chronic every spring layoffs and pink slips and talk about cuts. They want to at least stabilize our schools. And I think they want to reinvest in public education so much we're anticipating better times ahead, including in the next year. CAVANAUGH: So you had to come up with these numbers without any indication of how much money you might be getting from prop 30. How much do you think you might be getting? BARRERA: Well, Governor Brown during the campaign, including here outside of Perkins, Hoover high school, said a few times that within a few years with the passage of prop 30, he anticipated about a $2,500 per student increase in funding. That's over $250 million a year for our district. The great thing is the day after the election, he repeated that. So we know that this governor is very committed to education. If we look a few years out, we're going to be in a position that's very exciting. We're going to restore some of the things we've cut, bring the class sizes back down, providing a little boost to our employees who have been making such a sacrifice for the last several years. So next year, what our hope is is that there's enough of an increase that we can at least just stay stable. So we don't have to go through a process of cuts. People can know that we're going to have the resources that we need to actually go forward and then start to plan for increased revenue in the following years. So we're thinking that there'll be enough to keep us stable. CAVANAUGH: So you are anticipating at least getting enough money from prop 30, from the state, so that you will not have teacher layoffs or a shorter school year. BARRERA: Absolutely. And I think the voters have been clear. I think the governor was clear in his promise to voters. We're justice done. [ LAUGHTER ] BARRERA: We're done going through this annual ritual. And again we're not expecting to be able to do all that we want and restore all the cuts from the last several years next year alone, but we are expecting stability. CAVANAUGH: Do you have -- has the School Board come up with any kind. List of priorities of the positions and the programs that you would like to restore as time goes on and you're expecting more revenue to come in from prop 30? BARRERA: So we actually gone through that process yet, but we've got a new School Board, and we had a little planning process yesterday morning where we talk about we want to develop a 5-year budget. And we want to look at a five year budget projecting the increased revenues. And the governor's department of finance has some revenue projections for school districts to look at. So we intend to go through that process. And it's incredibly exciting to talk about how do we bring class sizes back down? How do we expand some of the great programs already at work in our schools? The international Baca laureate program, dual-language instruction. CAVANAUGH: During the board meeting last night, I understand you're still talking about budget cutting in the sense of trying to trim your budget by changing the way that your healthcare is managed; is that right? BARRERA: Well, this is -- our district is part of a consortium of many school districts where we go out to the market for our health insurance, again as part of a larger group. There's been some conversation about would we be better off being on our own? What we said that we were going to do last night is a little bit of a market analysis. Let's compare our healthcare costs to the costs of other school districts that are out on their own. And my anticipation frankly is that we're doing better than those districts. But look, if they're saving money, then of course we're going to look at that. But I think the idea that we're going to be better off in the marketplace as a single district rather than a larger group, I'm skeptical there's savings to be found there. CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a couple of questions about teach for America. BARRERA: Sure. CAVANAUGH: For the first time, San Diego will be welcoming some of these teach for America teachers into our classrooms. What is this program? BARRERA: Well, the important thing to understand is we took two actions last night. One is a broader comprehensive partnership with our teachers association, San Diego education association. To be thinking long-term about what our teaching force looks like, we want a teaching force that reflects the demographics of our students, and we want to create a career pathway where we've got students who are potentially gifted educators, we want to get them interested in teaching and provide some incentive and training and support for them to come back into our schools. So we're looking at a number of things to incentivize young people to go into teaching. Teach for America recruits highly motivated, bright young people from universities around the country to make a commitment to at least go into a classroom for a couple of years. What we're interested in is having a teach for America local model that is about how do we find our own young people and try to figure out ways to train and support them so they will stay in our classrooms, not just leave after a couple of years. CAVANAUGH: I see. Will you be using any of the teachers from the current program in San Diego? BARRERA: From teach for America? Yeah! So this would be a first time partnership where -- and there are a number of young people from our local university, San Diego state, UCSD, and also people who have grown up in San Diego, a young man who graduated from Hoover high school who's currently about to graduate from Harvard. He's applied for teach for America, and we're going to bring him back in to teach in our schools. And that's kind of the model that we're looking to. CAVANAUGH: Now, who pays them? BARRERA: Well, they would be like anybody else. Teachers in our district. The district would pay them. Teach for America is raising money in the community from business and philanthropy to develop a support structure for those young people who want to go into teaching. We're anticipating up to 25 next year. The key is that these have to be positions that are already budgeted. So we're not spending anymore money. And they have to be positions in which there are vacancies. So of course we're not going to displace any of our current teachers. But where we anticipate having openings, you know, to get somebody like this young man from Hoover high school who's about to graduate Harvard come back into our system is very exciting. CAVANAUGH: This is a more pleasant conversation than we have had for a while! [ LAUGHTER ] BARRERA: Absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much. BARRERA: Thank you, Maureen.

After years of budget cuts and teacher layoffs, California voters decided to pay more for education and passed Proposition 30 last November. But last night, San Diego Unified School District's board confronted the possibility that the landmark tax measure is not going to solve all the district's budget woes.


The budgeting process for next year begins this month -- and preliminary numbers show a $84 million deficit.

California school districts have to submit their first financial plans for the next school year to the county offices of education by Saturday. For San Diego schools those plans include a central office and school staffing reduction, and selling district property to close the budget shortfall. The budget does not include projections for funding increases from Proposition 30.

But the outlook for next year is expected to improve when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his proposed budget on January 10. That proposal should give the district an idea of how much its budget gap will be narrowed by revenues from Proposition 30, according to Bernie Rhinerson, San Diego Unified's chief of staff.

“How we would specifically address that really needs to wait until we know what the budget is in January," he said. "What we do know that’s different than previous years is that we expect it will get better. For the last five or six years at this point in time, we always knew things are getting worse.”

Money brought in by Proposition 30’s temporary sales and income tax increases must be spent on education. However the law does not guarantee increased schools funding if state revenues are flat or decrease overall.