San Diego Unified is now estimating its budget cuts at $53 million, an upgrade from the $80 million originally expected, but “still a devastating cut to our schools,” Superintendent Terry Grier wrote in an e-mail to staff yesterday afternoon.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised May budget scaled back intended cuts to schools announced in January, but did not restore funding to the levels San Diego Unified expected to receive next school year under Proposition 98, which guarantees minimum funding levels for California schools.

The smaller cuts will allow San Diego Unified to reverse some of its layoffs, Grier wrote. He will recommend which positions to save on Tuesday before the school board. Grier wrote:

Over the last few days, we have had time to analyze the impact of this budget revision. The good news is that the size of our district’s estimated deficit has dropped from $80 million to $53 million. The bad news is that we still have to cut $53 million. By any measure, this is a still a devastating cut to our schools. The Governor’s new budget does not provide us with any cost-of-living increases at a time when all of our costs, including fuel, food and medical care, are going through the roof. It also continues to make deep cuts in the categorical programs that we count on to provide resources for our highest need students and schools.

We can take some comfort in the fact that the size of our budget shortfall has been reduced. Based on our revised numbers, I believe we can begin the process of restoring a portion of our cuts. Next Tuesday, I will be making recommendations on a series of personnel restorations to our school board. The criteria that will be used in making the recommendations for restoration will be the same used in making the cuts. We will begin with the classroom first.

This does not mean that we can restore all that we have cut. With $53 million in cuts, we cannot afford to become complacent.

It is unclear how the 300 teaching jobs restored by San Diego Unified last week fit into the new budget estimate. Restoring the jobs is expected to cost $20 million.

EMILY ALPERT

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