The San Diego Unified school board will vote tonight on whether to continue its plan to shift all of its federal funds for disadvantaged students to the very poorest schools. If it does, schools with lower percentages of poor children would lose out on money they now receive to help needy children.

The federal funds are meant to help school districts close the achievement gap between students from rich and poor families. The battle over which schools should get the money has become one of the touchiest and most emotional debates in San Diego Unified:

Parents and principals on the losing end have protested it will strip services for poor children who go to somewhat better-off schools. Backers say it will focus more of the money where it is most sorely needed, arguing that San Diego Unified has diluted the dollars by spreading them out to schools with lower poverty levels.

Which schools would win out and which would lose? I decided to make a map to show you. Red schools would lose money; blue schools would gain it. This map is based on school poverty levels that were measured last fall. (Schools that never got the money aren’t on the map at all.)

Click on the image to interact with the map.

You can see from the map that most schools in the southeastern areas of San Diego Unified would gain from the funding shift, while the losing schools tend to be farther north.

Why does that matter? This map reveals a little more about the political dynamics of this decision. School board members Shelia Jackson and Richard Barrera were elected to represent areas where most schools would gain funding. Both have backed the shift. Scott Barnett, Kevin Beiser and John Lee Evans represent areas where some schools would gain and some would lose. Beiser and Evans oppose the shift; Barnett has been the swing vote. He voted for the original plan and now appears poised to vote against it.

This map also underscores one of the reasons this debate has been so sensitive: Busing. The San Diego Unified school board has stressed the idea that more children should go to their neighborhood school, instead of taking a bus elsewhere. Most of those buses go south to north, taking kids from poorer areas like Barrio Logan or Chollas View to wealthier areas to the north. The shift would put more money into schools in areas that children tend to leave at the expense of many schools they go to instead. That would be a financial blow against busing, even if the busing programs otherwise stay the same.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at

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

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