I’m scanning over the next briefing for the San Diego Unified board on budgets, planned for Wednesday. Four things popped out at me:

  • The best case scenario for the school district’s budget gap got better — and its worst case scenario got worse. San Diego Unified earlier estimated its deficit for next school year between $147 million and $203 million. Now the numbers have shifted to $97 million to $222 million. Why? I don’t know yet. But look for more information after the Wednesday budget meeting.
  • Freezing spending and hiring is now estimated to save $18 million to $20 million for this school year. That sure ain’t chump change. To put that in perspective, San Diego Unified believes it would get between $4 million and $8.5 million if California successfully won a second dose of stimulus dollars, called Race to the Top, which has been getting a lot more ink than the spending freeze. (Lost? Check out two perspectives from our guest bloggers, Jim Miller and Donna Cleary, on Race to the Top.)
  • San Diego Unified estimates it could save $4.3 million daily by furloughing employees, an idea that has been pushed by school board member John de Beck. But staffers also say that severely cutting the school year isn’t legally feasible. California has given schools the freedom to cut down from 180 days to 175 days without being penalized, but San Diego Unified could face financial penalties if it slashes the year any shorter. De Beck has argued that schools should still do it because the state is imposing unreasonable cuts.
  • Bus ridership dropped 36 percent this school year compared to last. There are a few possible reasons: San Diego Unified raised the minimum number of children required to run a bus route. It also tried to educate more children with disabilities at their neighborhood schools, instead of busing them elsewhere.

Spot something interesting in the budget report? Shoot me an e-mail at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

— EMILY ALPERT

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