One Step Closer to Schools’ Budget Doomsday

One Step Closer to Schools’ Budget Doomsday

File Photo by Sam Hodgson

The San Diego Unified School Board

 

The financial fate of local schools rests on whether California will slash school funding in the middle of the year. A crucial new analysis released today puts the state a step closer to doing just that. School officials say it would send San Diego Unified hurtling toward a financial meltdown.

The school district built its budget on the hopes that California would not make these cuts, rehiring teachers this summer to keep classes small for its youngest students. Now that money could be in jeopardy. Here is a step-by-step guide to what happened today and what it means for your local schools.

What This Means for San Diego Unified: It’s a big deal. Superintendent Bill Kowba has said these cuts could be the first step toward insolvency and a state takeover, a dramatic step that would strip control from the superintendent and the school board. School officials estimate it would deepen cuts by more than $30 million, money the district was banking on when it rehired teachers this summer.

What Decides If Cuts Will Happen: The Department of Finance will issue its own forecast in December. The governor will use the December forecast and the prediction that came out today from the state legislative analyst to decide whether to cut schools by more than $1 billion.

Why Schools Are Worried: California relied on a rosy revenue projection to spare schools from deeper cuts in the summer. The tradeoff was that if those revenues didn’t roll in, schools could suffer cuts in the middle of the year.

San Diego Unified has estimated that such cuts could deepen its deficit, already estimated as high as $80 million for next school year, by $56 million more. It banked on the money to restore more than 300 jobs for teachers, taking a gamble on the state money coming. California prodded school districts to rehire teachers, but not all of them took the same risk as San Diego Unified.

Watch our San Diego Explained on that “ticking time bomb” in the district’s budget:

If the Cuts Do Happen: Weathering midyear cuts would be especially daunting for schools because it can’t dismiss teachers in the middle of the year. Schools were told they could slash the school year even more to save money, but they’d still need to get labor unions to agree to do so, since it would cut workers’ pay.

If schools really did go insolvent, it would mean a huge loss of control for the school district: Kowba would be fired and the state would appoint an administrator in his place. The school board would lose all power. The administrator would have sweeping powers to decide how to keep the school district afloat. Watch our San Diego Explained to understand what happens if schools go broke:

What’s Next for School Districts: They’re gearing up for a political fight over whether to make the cuts. San Diego Unified school board President Richard Barrera said the state could still decide to spare schools by generating new revenue or making other cuts.

“We’ve got to call on everybody who cares about public schools,” Barrera said. “All of these guys that claimed they were committed to protecting public education in this budget, if the governor pulls the trigger, they didn’t.”

A school district lobbyist said even if California makes the cuts, legislators could decide to give schools more options. There are already some signs that lawmakers will try to avoid the school cuts: Sacramento Bee reporter Kevin Yamamura tweeted that State Senator Ellen Corbett is asking to reopen the budget to avoid midyear education cuts.

Meanwhile, San Diego Unified is getting down to the glum business of planning out what other cuts would be needed if the cuts come, said Bernie Rhinerson, a school district spokesman. The school board must come up with its first financial plan by the middle of December.

I’ll be tracking down more details about what this new prediction means for San Diego Unified. For immediate updates and links, please check out my Twitter feed.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert
  • 422 Posts
  • 0
    Followers

Show comments
Before you comment, read these simple guidelines on what is not allowed.

28 comments
George Holbrook
George Holbrook subscriber

If you can't make payroll, what difference does it make about getting labor unions to agree to anything. Once you are out of money and the wallet is empty, the game is over.

geoh808
geoh808

If you can't make payroll, what difference does it make about getting labor unions to agree to anything. Once you are out of money and the wallet is empty, the game is over.

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers subscriber

Better still- let's reject SDUSD's oversight altogether. Most charter enthusiasts would welcome the autonomy, thanks!

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers

Better still- let's reject SDUSD's oversight altogether. Most charter enthusiasts would welcome the autonomy, thanks!

Rick Johnson
Rick Johnson subscriber

D-Z Somebody else can look at them.

Simplat
Simplat

D-Z Somebody else can look at them.

John de Beck
John de Beck subscriber

Sadly all of this could have been prevented IF austerity measures I proposed over three years ago were impemented. Accumulating savings as suggested could have changed everything. Like compounded interest, the deficit is now overwhelming and little can be done but pray! Those on the board who have let this happen need to be removed in the next election. Of course some are just not going to run...and that is fine. Check out the PROMISES of the new candidates because people that promise smaller class sizes, and keeping everything the same, and WHO blame the state for everything are joining the charade!

deBeck
deBeck

Sadly all of this could have been prevented IF austerity measures I proposed over three years ago were impemented. Accumulating savings as suggested could have changed everything. Like compounded interest, the deficit is now overwhelming and little can be done but pray! Those on the board who have let this happen need to be removed in the next election. Of course some are just not going to run...and that is fine. Check out the PROMISES of the new candidates because people that promise smaller class sizes, and keeping everything the same, and WHO blame the state for everything are joining the charade!

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

Geez, Rich Gibson, at 10:57 p.m. on a Wednesday I'd have thought you'd be downtown with the Occupy folks. They could use some ideological direction.

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers subscriber

Well, the "Budget Doomsday" will certainly be a subject on this week's VOSD radio show, (and podcast!) recorded earlier then slated for broadcast on AM 600 KOGO and now FM 95.7 at 7:30 on Saturday morning. I'll be guest hosting with Andrew Donahue, and my knees are shaking with fear I'll let an obscenity slip. Or, more likely, he'll have a question I can't answer.

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers

Well, the "Budget Doomsday" will certainly be a subject on this week's VOSD radio show, (and podcast!) recorded earlier then slated for broadcast on AM 600 KOGO and now FM 95.7 at 7:30 on Saturday morning. I'll be guest hosting with Andrew Donahue, and my knees are shaking with fear I'll let an obscenity slip. Or, more likely, he'll have a question I can't answer.

richard gibson
richard gibson subscriber

kers, everywhere. Shut it down. All of it. Strangle that exploitative beast until it chokes or retreats. And welcome back Ms Alpert.

Rich Gibson
Rich Gibson

kers, everywhere. Shut it down. All of it. Strangle that exploitative beast until it chokes or retreats. And welcome back Ms Alpert.

Tammy Tran
Tammy Tran subscriber

E-learning and e-teachers - students can learn wherever and whenever they want, less teachers needed.

TammyT
TammyT

E-learning and e-teachers - students can learn wherever and whenever they want, less teachers needed.

Scott Hasson
Scott Hasson subscriber

The TCC will take a position on how we, the community can support our children and schools. All are invited.

scotthasson
scotthasson

The TCC will take a position on how we, the community can support our children and schools. All are invited.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

Why are we now surprised at their complete incompetence in handling an operating budget?

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

Why are we now surprised at their complete incompetence in handling an operating budget?

Ian Trowbridge
Ian Trowbridge subscribermember

In this country, education is diminished by an adversarial approach that includes teachers unions insisting on protecting poor teachers and preventing good teachers to educate rather than teaching to the test. There is plenty of blame to go around a San Diego Unified District without blaming the state.

iantrowbridge
iantrowbridge

In this country, education is diminished by an adversarial approach that includes teachers unions insisting on protecting poor teachers and preventing good teachers to educate rather than teaching to the test. There is plenty of blame to go around a San Diego Unified District without blaming the state.

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

As a knee-jerk response, it's hard not to cheer for a state takeover that would fire our weak Superintendent of Schools and officially extinguish our feckless Board of Education. But what then would happen to our public school kids remains the great unknown, so I'm hoping for something better to occur -- like an exercise of genuine local authority at the School District before it is too late.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

We all can certainly feel sorrow for the school district employees whose lives will be disrupted by this "unexpected" shortfall, but the REAL victims of this pathetic process are our kids. And that makes this mess all the more tragic.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

We all can certainly feel sorrow for the school district employees whose lives will be disrupted by this "unexpected" shortfall, but the REAL victims of this pathetic process are our kids. And that makes this mess all the more tragic.

Michael Robertson
Michael Robertson subscribermember

I'm wondering if school board president Barrera EVER answers the call from reality phone and constructs a budget based on the funding the district will actually receive. Seems like his answer to every question is "ask Sacramento for more money". Fine if you want to do that in parallel to having a working budget, but apparently he thinks that a realistic budget is not his responsibility. The lack of leadership is utterly appalling.

mp3michael
mp3michael

I'm wondering if school board president Barrera EVER answers the call from reality phone and constructs a budget based on the funding the district will actually receive. Seems like his answer to every question is "ask Sacramento for more money". Fine if you want to do that in parallel to having a working budget, but apparently he thinks that a realistic budget is not his responsibility. The lack of leadership is utterly appalling.

Elmer Walker
Elmer Walker subscriber

Anybody with minimal intelligence knew the States revenue estimate would not be realized. The SDUSD B o D refused to use common sense and conserve funds, now we all will have to pay for their ineptitude.

elmerew
elmerew

Anybody with minimal intelligence knew the States revenue estimate would not be realized. The SDUSD B o D refused to use common sense and conserve funds, now we all will have to pay for their ineptitude.