The San Diego Unified board voted unanimously to reverse two of the most controversial cuts it had planned to cope with a nearly $147 million budget cuts tonight, restoring busing to magnet schools and canceling a plan to make small elementary schools share principals. Parents and children cheered loudly as the decisions were announced.

Parents decried both plans over the last month. Magnet supporters argued that ending busing to the schools would decimate enrollment and undercut the very idea of magnets, which draw students from across the city to schools with unique themes. Staffers concluded that the busing cuts, originally estimated to save $10.5 million, would actually save only $4.3 million.

Parents and principals at small elementary schools were appalled at sharing principals, an idea that they called unsafe and impractical. It was estimated to save roughly $1.4 million.

“If I could cash in one of my Purple Hearts to pay for a principal, I’d do it. That’s how important this is to me,” said Percy Tolliver, a Vietnam veteran whose two daughters attend Franklin Elementary. He credited its principal for helping him schedule school events and visits around his chemotherapy appointments.

The school board did not make a decision on how to cover the costs of the reversed cuts. Superintendent Terry Grier has proposed phasing out several magnet programs, changing bell schedules, and pulling money from a legal settlement to cover the expenses, but the school board asked for more time to review those ideas and present them to parents and the public before approving them.

“I feel that if you want to fund magnet transportation, there is a way,” Grier told the board in a Tuesday morning meeting.

The board also voted to revamp funding for magnet schools, which will now be allocated money based on their theme and their enrollment. A recent report by outside consultants from Magnet Schools of America found that funding for magnet schools was illogical and inconsistent, prompting staffers to design the new funding formula.


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