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When San Diego Unified schools were empowered to choose what and who to fund, the biggest losers were librarians, nurses and teachers for highly gifted kids, while vice principals and counselors were more likely to be protected.

Here is how it worked: Instead of getting staff assigned to them based on their enrollment, schools got a kitty of money this year and were asked to choose what to keep. Principals were supposed to consult with parents, teachers and the community before making decisions.

Now we can see which jobs were saved and which were slashed. The school district cautions that these are estimates, so the exact numbers could change, but they give a rough sense of where cuts will fall.

The results are interesting.

Schools opted to fund only 48 percent of the existing librarians, but they protected 82 percent of the vice principals. Counselors were more likely to be spared, with 81 percent funded. But teachers for highly gifted kids would be cut dramatically, with only 37 percent left intact.

Nurses also took a big hit: Only 50 percent would be spared. (However, schools were told they would also get some minimal nursing from the district through a traveling nurse pool, which may be why they were less likely to choose to spend their own funds on nurses.) Office staff fared better, with 75 percent of staff staying on the job.

So for a recap: Nurses, librarians and teachers for the highly gifted were the biggest losers as schools crafted their budgets. Vice principals, counselors and office staff were the winners, if there are any winners in budget cuts. (Maybe it’s better to say they were lesser losers. They’re still being cut.)

All of this makes Marion Snell look awfully prescient.

Snell, a librarian at Kimbrough Elementary, complained to the school board before that librarians were more likely to get the ax when schools budget this way. She argues that this isn’t really “site based budgeting” but “principal based budgeting,” with principals pushing for things that matter most to them, such as fellow vice principals.

The question now is whether these plans will become reality, prompting the school district to warn librarians and nurses of layoffs, or whether the school board will step in and make different decisions than schools made for themselves. It is still very early in the budget process.

The data is part of a budget presentation that Superintendent Bill Kowba will make to the school board tonight. I crunched the numbers myself to get the percentage cuts.

Thanks to all the educators and parents who have been helping me comb through the proposed San Diego Unified budget cuts! If you haven’t taken a gander yet, you can check out the budget proposals here. Check back with me on Twitter and the blog for more details tonight as Kowba talks through the cuts.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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