School staffers are puzzling out what the new state budget, nearly finished after negotiations between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders this morning, will mean for San Diego Unified schools.

“We’re expecting some changes,” said James Masias, chief financial officer at San Diego Unified. “But I don’t really know what they are.”

His words echoed those of Superintendent Terry Grier earlier this week, when legislators were unveiling their plan.

“We think this is better than expected, but not sure,” Grier said. “They toss out this big caution that the governor could always institute midyear reductions. What does that mean?”

Schools were bracing for much deeper cuts earlier this year. San Diego Unified originally planned to lay off nearly 1,000 educators — those cuts were reduced to roughly 200 teachers by June 30, after a revised May budget predicted a smaller deficit for schools. The school district recently announced that more than half of those teachers have been placed in classrooms temporarily, filling in for teachers on leave.

The confusing process by which California schools plan budgets and layoffs aggravates educators, who have repeatedly seen massive layoffs proposed, then cancelled, over the years. It takes a financial and emotional toll on schools, as we wrote in May.

And the worst news? Because California’s financial woes will stretch into the future, the budget and layoff drama will probably be repeated this school year.

Masias is awaiting analysis of the state numbers. And eventually he’ll get some hard numbers directly from the state, Masias said. He’s just not sure when.

EMILY ALPERT

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