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Hundreds of San Diego Unified teachers will be spared from the chopping block, thanks to extra savings squeezed from the school district central offices and canceled administrative cuts. But the board held off on another move to use redevelopment money to free up other funds and cancel even more layoffs.
The school board spared jobs by canceling an earlier proposal to eliminate more than 30 administrators to save $4 million — a move that triggered hundreds more pink slips for educators because some of the jilted administrators had rights to take other jobs. The number of layoff warnings for educators dropped from 1,330 to under 1,100, according to preliminary estimates.
On top of that, school board President Richard Barrera said school district staff had found another $3.2 million in central office savings. That money will go to restore more nursing and counseling and reduce cuts to the arts, lessening the number of pink slips even more.
The total number of jobs saved is not clear yet: Superintendent Bill Kowba is supposed to come up with a more specific plan about which jobs to save with the money saved from the central office. The school district faces an estimated $120 million deficit for next school year, spurring the planned layoffs.
The school board deadlocked on another plan that would have spared more teachers. Barrera wanted to use more than $7 million in redevelopment money to cover operational costs for schools downtown, freeing up money to reverse layoff warnings for educators all over the school district.
The redevelopment money was earlier earmarked to lease and fix up space in the downtown library for a charter school; San Diego Unified freed up the money by using funds from its $2.1 billion school renovation and construction bond on the library instead.
The city has tried to throw cold water on that idea: The downtown redevelopment agency says using the redevelopment money to spare teachers would be inconsistent with the agreement between it and the school district that sets out how funds are shared with schools. But school district attorneys insist that the money, which has long been used on building costs, can be spent on other costs for schools downtown.
Barrera estimated the money could hold average class sizes at 24 instead of 29 1/2 in the first grade. But the school board split 2 to 2 on the idea, with John Lee Evans and Scott Barnett in opposition.
“We’re talking about taking away money that is in our piggybank … when we already have a shortfall in this fiscal year,” Barnett said, pointing out that the school district finance chief had just mentioned millions more in new, unexpected shortfalls for the current school year.
Evans wanted to put forward a different idea that would simply commit the redevelopment money to help cancel cuts, but not right away, letting school district staff come up with a restoration plan.
Barrera, frustrated by the decision, said he would bring back the idea again in a few weeks, when school board member Shelia Jackson, who was absent Tuesday, was present to vote.