The San Diego Unified School District faces at least a $60 million budget deficit next year, a figure that could swell to as much as $138 million, the district now estimates, if the state makes threatened midyear cuts to education spending in January.

Those cuts are known as “trigger cuts.” There’s a whole back-story about how they came about, but the important thing to remember is this: If the state doesn’t bring in enough money this year, it will have to cut education. That’s a huge deal for San Diego Unified. It could more than double its deficit, and Superintendent Bill Kowba has said the cuts would place the district firmly on the road to insolvency.

So, any scrap of news out of Sacramento about how much money the state is bringing in each month is being closely watched by education reporters and budget wonks around California. Today, Sacramento Bee reporter Kevin Yamamura posted a bit of a scoop. California’s deficit this year will be $5 billion to $8 billion — far bigger than expected, according to estimates from assembly budget officials.

But, despite that increase in the projected deficit, the memo also contained an interesting tidbit about the trigger cuts. Yamamura writes:

Assembly aides believe that the economy has stabilized since late summer, pointing to an exceptionally strong stock market in October and an improvement in gross domestic product estimates.

That interpretation suggests Assembly Democrats are optimistic the state will avoid some or all of the trigger cuts.

Will wanted to ask Yamamura a couple of questions about his post, so Will connected with him on Twitter. Will wanted to know whether Yamamura thinks the trigger cuts are actually likely to happen. A few of the people Will’s spoken to have been very skeptical about whether legislators in Sacramento have the political will to make cuts that could send dozens of districts towards insolvency.

And Will wanted to ask Yamamura whether politicians in Sacramento are aware of just how destructive the cuts could be to San Diego Unified. Here’s their conversation:

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at, and Dagny Salas is the web editor. You can reach them at and at or call them at the office at 619.325.0525.

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