San Diego schools are in the midst of a crisis. With our partners at NBC 7 San Diego, we’re running a special five-part series of San Diego Explained to fill you in on just how bad that crisis has become, how we got here and how we might get out of it.

The second part of that series, Schools on the Brink, aired Tuesday night. In it, NBC’s Catherine Garcia and I explain just how the financial picture at San Diego Unified School District got so bad.

You might want to watch part one of the series first, in which Andrew Donohue and Garcia explore the present and future impacts of the district’s financial meltdown.

And if you care about the future of local education, you should definitely join us in Point Loma tomorrow night for our special live forum on the crisis. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the McMillin Event Center in Liberty Station. We’ll be putting San Diego Unified board members Richard Barrera and Scott Barnett on the hot seat, along with three other local education specialists. Hope to see you there.

Here’s the video of the second part:

View more videos at:

Want more? We’re hosting commentaries from readers on how they would fix schools. And here are five recommended stories on the crisis:

1. The Ticking Time Bomb in School Finances

Before school leaders publicly declared the threat of insolvency, our investigation foreshadowed the problem, finding that a series of San Diego Unified decisions threatened to further erode class sizes, beloved programs and the district’s overall financial footing.

2. San Diego Schools Chief: ‘Starting Point on the Road to Insolvency’

Superintendent Bill Kowba issued a stark warning in mid-October: If the state makes cuts in the middle of the year to education, the district is headed on the road to insolvency. We put together a simple three-part guide to understanding how it got to that point.

3. Insolvency Has Long Colored School District Decisions

The public proclamations that the San Diego Unified School District faces a state takeover dropped like a bombshell, but our story revealed that district leaders have had serious discussions about insolvency both publicly and privately for years.

4. Solutions? Yes, There Have Been a Few Proposed

How would district board members fix the problem? School board President Richard Barrera wants the state to levy new taxes on things like oil or alcohol. Board member Scott Barnett wants to cut employee pay, reverse promised raises and ask for a tax increase. The other three board members are basically mum. Even one engaged parent thinks going insolvent is the solution.

5. So What Happens if the School District Does Go Insolvent?

Watch this explainer about what that will look like:

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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