Statement: “Central Office staff (was) cut by more than 500” in the San Diego Unified School District, according to the ballot statement for Shelia Jackson, one of four Democratic candidates vying to unseat county Supervisor Ron Roberts, a Republican.

Determination:True

Analysis: Ballot statements give voters key information and arguments about why they should choose a specific candidate. Sometimes it’s the only information a voter has. So it’s especially important that ballot statements be accurate.

Was Jackson right? We asked San Diego Unified budget analyst Alexandre Macasinag to check out the numbers — since they aren’t readily available in public financial reports — and she found that the school district cut the equivalent of 534 filled positions from its central office departments between 2008 and 2010.

However, it’s important to note that “central office staff” is a vague term. It’s not a defined category of employees that San Diego Unified reports to the county or the state for its budget, so school employees and managers often argue about what “central office staff” really includes.

Some workers employed by central office departments actually spend much of their time in schools. A resource teacher who helps other teachers with lessons or curricula is one example. So when Jackson or other school board members talk about cutting “central office staff,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cutting bureaucrats who never work with kids.

Macasinag’s budget analysis includes scores of departments and positions beyond administrative roles. It includes everything from bus maintenance to internal audits to the arts. The count Jackson used includes school bus drivers and assistants who work with children with disabilities, along with more intuitively “central office” jobs such as secretaries and budget analysts. 

Though we felt it was important to explain what “central office staff” really means, we’re dubbing Jackson’s statement as true because she used a reasonable definition that budget staffers share.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

— EMILY ALPERT

Summer Polacek

Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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