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Eliminate the school district program on preventing dropouts. Shut down departments that administer programs for gifted and talented students, curriculum, community relations, race relations and adult education. And stop giving students tests that aren’t required under No Child Left Behind.

Those are some of the options that an internal team has scrounged up to save money in San Diego Unified, which faces a deficit for next school year that could range from $147 million to $203 million. The group, called Budget Reduction Alternatives to Conserve Education — or BRACE — was led by Phil Stover, a longtime consultant who was recently tapped as the group’s interim chief special projects officer.

Brace’s goals were to find cuts that would impact as few students as possible, preferably by cutting programs that could be absorbed or replicated by other departments. Their recommendations included $10 million in voluntary cuts that the departments offered up themselves and roughly $24 million more in cuts that wouldn’t be so voluntary. Those options included:

  • Phasing out the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program, which helps support and mentor new teachers. Estimated savings: $1.1 million.
  • Eliminating tests that are not required by the state under No Child Left Behind. The tests have been unpopular with some teachers, but they also give teachers quicker feedback than the state tests. Estimated savings: $1.1 million.
  • Closing or consolidating departments in the central office, such as central offices for the gifted and talented education department, the race and human relations department, the curriculum and instructional support department, the ombudsperson, adult education and community relations. Stover said many of the programs they ran, such as the dropout prevention program, could be picked up by other departments.Estimated savings: Over $6 million.
  • Cutting back on contracts in a slew of offices and departments. (I didn’t add it all up, but there are quite a few different offices slated to pare back.)
  • Cutting the hours worked by hourly employees by 25 percent, except for summer school employees. Estimated savings: $2.7 million.
  • Eliminating auditors who look at issues other than finances and the Fraud Hotline. Estimated savings: $448,000.

They also noticed some ongoing problems in how San Diego Unified tracks financial data. The team found that some jobs that were supposed to be cut were still on the books. Phone bills for land lines were “very high,” though the report didn’t specify just how high. And dollars are being transferred in and out of accounts with the knowledge or consent of the managers who oversee each department.

You can check out the full list of potential cuts and a ton of backup information here. The school board will go over the data tomorrow in an evening budget workshop.

EMILY ALPERT

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