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San Diego Unified Could Eliminate 500 Teachers

San Diego Unified Could Eliminate 500 Teachers
The San Diego Unified School District faces a budget hole of $120 million for 2011-12 academic year. The school board is considering two scenarios. If voters support a proposal to extend state tax increases, the debt could be cut in half. If not, as many as 500 teachers could be laid off. We discuss how the uncertainty is affecting the district.

The San Diego Unified School District faces a budget hole of $120 million for 2011-12 academic year. The school board is considering two scenarios. If voters support a proposal to extend state tax increases, the debt could be cut in half. If not, as many as 500 teachers could be laid off. We discuss how the uncertainty is affecting the district.


Scott Lewis, chief executive officer of


Dennis Morgigno, director of original programming for Channel 4 San Diego

Bob Kittle, director of News Planning and Content for KUSI

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER: Fewer teachers, nurses, librarians, and counselors, plus larger classes for San Diego city schools if tax hikes aren't extended. I'm Gloria Penner. Coming up on the Editors Roundtable, the news isn't good for employees or the youngsters. What moves are there to boost the system? Also almost 300 ways to fix will City of San Diego's budget. So why is the deficit still no cop founding to our mayor and council members? Plus rinse from Carl DeMaio on cutting trash services from private streets and [CHECK] all that's next on the Editors Roundtable, first the news.

I'm Gloria Penner. I'm joined by the editors at the Roundtable today. We'll hear from the editors on how city schools are preparing for the budget battles ahead. What options the City of San Diego has to cut tens of millions of dollars.

Q. Its budget, and why councilman Carl DeMaio is taking on the mayor and other powerful interests. The editors with me today are Scott Lewis, CEO of


PENNER: And I welcome for his debut on Editors Roundtable, Dennis Morgigno, director of original programming and station manager for Channel 4 San Diego. Dennis, welcome.

KITTLE: Thank you, Gloria. That's quite the build up, huh, boys?

GLORIA PENNER: And Bob Kittle, director of director of News Planning and Content for KUSI. And if you'd like to reach us, our number is 1-888-895-5727 well, last week, the San Diego City School Board reacted to the cost cutting map submitted by the principals of its more than two helped schools, the district's operating budget is about a billion dollars, but its projected where deficit could reach a hundred 20 million dollars. So Scott, first, how did the board react to the principal's cut list.

LEWIS: Well, it's preparing basically two plans in preparation of two potential outcomes, and the first one is, [CHECK] planned extensions of tax increases were to be approved by voters in June? If those are approved then that's one scenario for the city schools. If those report approved then city schools might have to cut up to 500 teachers issue maybe 1300 total employees, then the third scenario would be if those tax increases aren't extended and if the state each reneges on prop 98, the cert of baseline bottoming that it's suppose said to provide schedule. Do they decide to give out those 500 pink slips to teachers and sort of reek the havoc that that causes or do they sort of hold that back in some risky move to see if the governor's plan does work and don't have to issue any of them or all of them.

GLORIA PENNER: Yeah, but the deadlines are coming up on us. Ply understanding [CHECK] 123450 [CHECK] that they're kind of clinging to. 'Cause if thigh give these pink slips out, then all that sort of havoc starts about the teachers worrying about it, then the no, sir stories about all these teachers getting cut come out. The other big issue, if they do [CHECK] wholly based on seniority. Usual Lee less advantaged schools in neighborhoods that need them the most and are probably suffering the most, then those schools suffer the most, because they can't always have the most amount of new teachers. In LA, the UCLA is actually sued because -- [CHECK] and under served years, so it's sort of thrust into that other and maybe there'd be a better way to actually handle budget deficits like this than simply just kick out the newest teachers.

PENNER: Well, there might be some options there. Certainly our listeners always are quite creative in the way they think about this. So other than layoffs, let me ask our listeners about that. Assuming that the 120-million which deficit really does go into effect, excuse me, what would you see as ways of cutting back on the school bottoming maybe, without sacrificing teachers? Our numb is 1-888-895-5727. 1-888-895-5727 KPBS. Scott, I'm gonna switch from you now and talk to tennis about this. In the worst case, Dennis, teachers might be laid off, but now SoCal nurses are on the line. What is it that San Diego unified is proposing to do about the inures?

MORGIGNO: Well, they're proposing, to run to the nurse's office, and that's someone there to take care of the injury. They would have a roving team who could respond to emergencies, and of course the nurses say that's ludicrous, that this will result in almost no service. And it may sound ludicrous to most of us 678 but I think the larger picture here is that we are talking about [CHECK] because the uprising financial -- the underpinnings of these agencies, financially, has changed so dramatically, and is not likely to change back. So I think we're talking at the possibility of teacher lay offs and nurses not being around, and playgrounds not being opened, and janitors not being employed, but I think that the structural bases for what we do and why we do it, what's our core mission in the schools? It's to educate kids. I think we have to get back to the absolute basic and say, what do we need to provide a good education, and start from?

GLORIA PENNER: Well, there is a group, it's called San Diegans for better schools, and it collected almost half a million dollars last year in campaign funding, and it sounds as though that's what they want to do, can [CHECK] and how they should do it. Bob Kittle, what change does this group want, and why?

KITTLE: Well, primarily, [CHECK] their view is that the teachers' union dominates the School Board, and I don't think there's any doubt about that today. So what they would like to do is add four -- to the current [CHECK] new members who would be appointed by a Pam, that would include representatives from the various universities and otherwise, today I think this is -- because is that the state simply does not have the money that it had in the previous years to fund schools. Because they're looking at a scenario of a hundred and $20 million deficit if the tax increases are not extended, we the voters, and a $60 million deficit if the taxes are extended, now, I don't think the voters of the State of California are going to extend the tax increases.

PENNER: You don't?

KITTLE: No, if you look at the history. [CHECK] the last one being the $18 park fee, which the voters rejected of all eight of those voters have been reject, all seven of them pie [CHECK] I don't think scoping the odds favor these tax increase.

GLORIA PENNER: That would know disastrous for the schools.

KITTLE: Well, it would mean -- [CHECK] which larger class sizes in the lower grades, and other cut backs.

PENNER: Okay, well, our listeners [CHECK] is it John or Juan? In Chula Vista -- oh, George? Okay. It's gonna be George in San Diego. George, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, you asked I question, Gloria about [CHECK] my happening is the bun system, our school bus system, or $40 billion a year. And that's I think that's probably a good place to start. Can the [CHECK].


LEWIS: Sure, yeah, that's always -- they're pointing at magnet schools who bus people in. But also you have to remember that some of these schools can are [CHECK] outside the area, and you know, the school perhaps wouldn't exist without it, and the students actually see that as their only sort of opportunity to provide to get the education that they wanted, and mission bay struggles in its own way. So there's no one simple solution, I think the district typed to hand it to principals, and said, what count to cut, and the principals protected principals in may be ways and let go of nurses and [CHECK] and there's no magic bullet with this, and I knowledge there's going to be a lot of tension over the next couple months.

GLORIA PENNER: There was one idea, Dennis, that schools could use their own [CHECK] that the district plans to open a school supplies fund over [CHECK] so now we're talking about pots of money coming from private individuals who would say, I'm gonna help the schools, I'm gonna support it in some way.

MORGIGNO: Yeah, these are all Band-Aids, and they're necessary Band-Aids, if as Bob says, ask the voters do not approve the tax increase. And that's even, bob, if [CHECK].

KITTLE: Right.

MORGIGNO: Govern Brown's idea to put it on the ballot. [CHECK] if it doesn't hatch, these private foundations, have been -- thereby it private funds set up in some of the wealthier areas of town, where parents take it upon themselves to help fund the shortfalls in these schools, this is a more over --

LEWIS: But I think that this is basically saying the same thing, if you want school supplies, if you want other things, you're going to have to pay for them, through some special contribution, and whether it's voluntary or not, and I don't understand find that attractive at all as [CHECK] what are we going to do in order to get some of the new ideas forward, of how we can deal with teacher accountability, teacher performance so that we don't want just to cut the newest teachers like this, [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: Well, I want to thank George for his call, and let's turn to James in La Mesa now, James, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thank you for taking my call, and especially for raising this issue, and talking about it, because you're not hearing a lot [CHECK] obviously I have a personal stake in this. So the two points that I wanted to make, one is that I fiche the same thick, that the tax extensions are not gonna pass, but I want to urge folks about what that means when they're at the ballot box [CHECK] and the second point that I wanted to make is that I think that this discussion needs to be more about just cutting the teachers and cutting the nurses and suck, administration really needs to be looked at as well here, because there's a lot of well compensated folks within the administration, and as we know, San Diego has been unable to keep a superintendent for any amount of time, and the amount of money that's been spent is [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: Perhaps some of those 1300 employees that are going to be looked at if the tax hike doesn't pass, Scott, some of them may be administrators?

LEWIS: Well, the School Board, to their credit, be over the last [CHECK] has -- district office, I think to a large extent, I don't know how much more they can get out of it, they ran campaigns based on how much they cut off of it, I'm not saying there's waste, there's always places to look. [CHECK] unprecedented that they've called it, and so, how are they going to make that up without radical changes, is something I can't see. But on the other hand [CHECK] cutting the new teachers is also not the right route.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, before we go into the break, just to give a program fer hereof, Scott, how many students are we talking about in this strict.

LEWIS: I'm sorry, I don't have that.

GLORIA PENNER: You don't have the number?

MORGIGNO: It's about 132,000. Second largest district in the state.

GLORIA PENNER: That's really important to remember. We're gonna take a break now, and when we come back, we'll take more of why are calls, we'll continue the crisis, and I don't think that's too strong a word, that the San Diego school district with a hundred and 30000 students is about to face. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, I'm Gloria Penner, and this is the Editors Roundtable.

GLORIA PENNER: And also from our listeners, people to think that the voters are gonna vote for a tax hike, actually, it's not a tax hike, it's extending the tax hike that's already here, and I'd like to get your thoughts on it, 1-888-895-5727. At the table today, we have Bob Kittle from KUSI, and Dennis Morgigno from Channel 4 San Diego, and from the, a great panel, so we are in luck. I'm gonna start with a call, and this one is from Jennifer in Poway. Jennifer, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning.

GLORIA PENNER: Good morning, please go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: My problem has to do directly with laying off teachers, and I want to try to draw a solution and analogy to healthcare, and how I know that healthcare is private and the education system is public, generally. But my concerns is that laying off teachers is not the answer. And I draw that analogy to healthcare where, there's global quality measures that say that patients are dying in hospitals because nurse to patient ratio is off, and quality wasn't maintained, well, that is the same issue in healthcare -- education. That seems like a good future to not be laid off, because we need to have some kind of student study that shows that students should not be are the go like that.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, thank you, Jennifer. And that sort of brings us, that's a nice segue, Scott, [CHECK].

LEWIS: Nobody wants to lay off teachers of I don't know how you get the money, where do you get the main from. That's the question. We talk about issues like prop 13, keeping a weight on property taxes and what not. There's all kinds of larger picture issues that we might want to deal with, but the fact is, it's $120,000,000 short. How do we deal with that? And [CHECK] but the idea isn't that, you know, that we need to cut teachers or cut their salaries or try to lower standards of living, or try to isolate them, the idea is that is we want quality teachers, [CHECK] how do you make sure that these sort of -- distressing and depressing statistics that we're getting about perform apse of students are dealt with? And if these ideas are going up to the board, some of fascinating ideas that teachers come up with, and then they're getting stopped there, how do you free them? How do you get them to make the schools better, and that's the issue that we're all dealing with. And maybe this rout isn't the right one or maybe not. [CHECK] teachers, whether they're the teachers of year or the worst teachers, just because of their seniority.

PENNER: Well, I think that, isn't that what the whole San Diegans for better schools is all about?

LEWIS: Right. If I think if you ask them, they're not libertarians [CHECK] and supported the city's increase on taxes, this isn't a matter of trying to pay teachers less or even isolate them, this is a matter of trying to figure out how we're going to make due with what we have, maybe even increase it, but show performance results out of it.

GLORIA PENNER: So we do have some wealthy philanthropists involved in this move to change the way the school system works and let me ask you about this, Bob Kittle, how might the nature of public schools be changed if we do have money coming in from private individuals to change the system in.

KITTLE: Well, I don't think that it's a problem, I welcome sides being engaged whether they're wallet or not wallet in the process accident and seeking to improve schools, the fact that Erwin Jacobs is a billionaire, and supports this effort to [CHECK] I don't thinks that any determination of whether it's a good idea or not. And the thrust of the idea is to dilute the power of the unions over the School Board, but Scott has talked, rightly, I think, about the disruption of city schools in particular, when you lay off union workers, and it's a [CHECK] last hired or first fired, [CHECK] and then retracted them, and they can retract them again if the money suddenly material eased butch it sets off a scramble that's contained again, in the union contracts that allows teachers with more seniority, to choose a spot with a better school. [CHECK] and you know what's going on, and suddenly teacher it is are being laid off at an elementary school in La Jolla, and you have seniority, so what do you do? You pack you're bags and you head to La Jolla. And that kind of disruption -- and it occurs even perfect they lay teachers off, where you can claim your spot at an inner city school [CHECK] it disrupts everything.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, and Dennis, you know, I'm gonna give if you the time comment on this before we wrap it up.

MORGIGNO: I'll make it quick. I don't think we need to question can the motives of people like Erwin Jacobs [CHECK] and I can think that basically the end result of all this discussion is, we really have to get back to fundamentals, and this is a critical time for our political leaders to [CHECK] have changed so greatly, that now is the time to figure out how this system is going to sustain itself going forward. I agree, there are no easy answers. But this is some -- this is time for some political courage.

PENNER: Political courage and some creative thinking.


GLORIA PENNER: Thank you very much, gentlemen, and let's move on. And for those of you who are waiting on the line, may I urge you to go to and register your comment.