The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
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Dearest readers: I promise never to take three consecutive days of vacation again. Apparently San Diego Unified explodes with information when I do. I’m still gathering the shrapnel:

  • First school board member John de Beck announced his plan to save San Diego Unified from its budget woes by trimming the school year — a plan that apparently fizzled on Monday. (Quite a few readers were puzzled about how this idea was even logistically possible under union contracts. If the idea somehow un-fizzles I’ll dig up the answer.)
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  • Then the school board had a big powwow about the budget crisis and reviewed a ton of intriguing information about where we’re spending money in our schools. I’m still poring through it, but here are some quick factoids from a summary by Chief Financial Officer James Masias: Proposals by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would trim $33.8 million from the current school year and $12.7 million from next year. But costs are rising at the same time to the tune of $35 million. Ouch. According to Masias’ summary, that adds up to a projected $81.5 million deficit for next school year.
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  • That same report notes that Schwarzenegger is still eager to get flexible with school funding. Here is a refresher on what the heck that means, and particular what it would mean for San Diego Unified.
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  • But the party wasn’t over after all the budget talk: School board members toughed it out for the rest of Monday talking about how to run Proposition S, the new $2.1 billion facilities bond. You know, the one that stirred up all that controversy when the school board decided to start negotiating an agreement with labor unions on how the work will be done. Opponents are now drumming up money for a public awareness campaign that targets labor-backed members of the school board.

Now there is a new and different debate: How the bond work will be managed and how much responsibility to give outside management firms.

Scott Barnett, who helped run the Proposition S campaign and used to head the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, lobbied for the board to give more power to the outside managers instead of using them merely as manpower under the direction of San Diego Unified staffers. A memo provided by Barnett argues that the manpower model could make the outsiders “‘yes’ people” who “will not ‘bite the hand that feeds them’” even if they dislike the way that staffers are running the projects. I’ll feed all you readers more information on this issue today as I chase down school board members and staffers. (They’re headed into yet another meeting this morning.)

EMILY ALPERT

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