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Superintendents from across San Diego County gathered today to decry sweeping budget cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, holding a press conference at the county office of education.

County Superintendent Randolph Ward described the cuts as “the most significant reduction in school funding in our state’s history.” San Diego County’s public schools are expected to lose $350 million. San Diego Unified, the county’s largest district, is planning for a roughly $79 million cut in the current year budget.

“Nearly half of 42 school districts in San Diego County would be unable to meet their contracted obligations” if the cuts pass as proposed, Ward said. “… It simply defies logic to provide less support while expecting greater results” under No Child Left Behind.

“It just won’t work,” he added.

Though the cuts aren’t finalized, the county’s schools must budget as if they are. Under the law, schools must give notice to any teachers and other certificated employees who might lose their positions for the next school year by March 15. If the district fails to do that, the jobs can’t be eliminated. As a result, school districts are scrambling to decide which programs will be reduced or eliminated, and which staff members need to be notified.

School districts expect the cuts to cause layoffs, because the bulk of school funding is invested in employee salaries. As a result, class sizes will likely rise. Terry Grier, the newly selected superintendent of San Diego Unified, said it would be impossible to restrict cuts to central offices.

Legislators “had better be ready to do a few more things in the future,” Ward said. “We’re going to need an increase in the budget for welfare … for social services … for mental health … and the ever-increasing budget for prisons. … We all know who it’ll be, in prisons.”

The state budget cuts come as Schwarzenegger attempts to close a $14.5 billion budget deficit. The statewide Federation of Teachers has called on Schwarzenegger to reinstate a vehicle license fee, a $4 billion potential increase for California’s general fund, according to Education Week.

Check back later this week for a more in-depth take on the budget cuts, and what they mean for schools in San Diego County.


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