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Statement: The San Diego Unified School District “cut 500+ administrators,” supporters of Proposition J, the parcel tax increase, wrote in ballot arguments provided to voters.

Determination: False

Analysis: If approved, Proposition J would raise a parcel tax and inject an estimated $50 million annually into the school district’s budget, which faces a $141.6 million deficit next year. Without more money, district officials have forecasted massive cuts to schools and special programs.

Opponents argue that rejecting Prop. J would further pressure the district to find savings through policy reforms or new labor agreements. In ballot arguments, supporters say the district has already “cut overhead and reformed business practices” and would have few options to save money without impacting classrooms.

To support its argument, Prop. J supporters touted eliminating more than 500 central office personnel and in this case, described cutting more than 500 administrators. To be exact, the district reduced central office staff by 534 positions between the 2008 and 2010 fiscal years.

But here’s the problem: The cuts to central office personnel included many positions that fall outside the district’s own definition of an administrator and outside the implied cuts to bureaucracy. The central office cuts included, for example, 10 bus drivers, 20 campus police officers, about 30 skilled laborers and more than 200 assistants who helped disabled children.

Each month, San Diego Unified counts the number of employees who fill supervisory roles and reports that number to the labor union that represents them. The union is called the Administrators Association. The monthly total includes both union members — principals, vice principals and program managers — and nonmembers who also fill supervisory roles in the district, such as the area superintendents.

This month, the district reported having 654 supervisory employees, 75 fewer than the same month two years ago and 109 fewer than the same month three years ago. Based on those numbers, we asked district spokesman Bernie Rhinerson how cutting more than 500 administrators could be accurate.

Rhinerson said Prop. J supporters used the broader definition of central office cuts to show how previous budget cuts have steered away from classrooms. Everyone who works in a classroom is a teacher, he said, and everyone who doesn’t is helping to manage the classroom.

“From the broad perspective, it’s accurate,” he said. “It takes all those (central office) people to administer the school district and it takes all the teachers to teach it.”

Whether or not you agree with Rhinerson’s breakdown, it’s not what’s conveyed on the ballot argument. Since it didn’t explain what the number actually represented, and the number fell short of how many administrators were actually cut, we’ve called the statement false.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, or agree with Rhinerson, 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?

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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