The San Diego Unified school board voted unanimously tonight to halt spending and hiring unless its interim superintendent decides that the spending is a must. It has already racked up nearly $17 million in unplanned spending for the current school year and could face a deficit of up to $180 million for the 2010-2011 school year, depending on the decisions that the California legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger make.
Workers from the unions that represent library assistants and maintenance workers protested the move, which they said would leave them understaffed and overworked. Elaine Sabetti, a library technician and chapter leader of the union that represents library assistants, said there are now 10 schools that don’t have anyone to staff their libraries. Others are only able to leave their libraries open for a few hours.
“Don’t freeze them out of their libraries by freezing their library staff,” Sabetti said.
Board member Richard Barrera said controlling spending could help San Diego Unified spare as much as possible out of the roughly $220 million in its current budget that is neither spent nor encumbered for future spending. The school board took the same step last year and found itself with more savings than it expected. School board President Shelia Jackson said the situation was too dire to ignore this year.
“We’re not fat and happy. The state’s not fat and happy,” she said, adding that even if schools get their fair share of the budget, “We can’t get 40 percent of zero. That’s zero.”