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Statement: “We’ve already cut over 2,000 staff in the last few years,” San Diego Unified school board President John Lee Evans said during a June 19 interview on KPBS.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Evans and teachers union president Bill Freeman appeared on KPBS last month to discuss some big news: school district and union officials had agreed on a revised labor contract.

That headline might sound like a yawner, but the contract provided an avenue to restore the jobs of more than 1,500 educators. Class sizes wouldn’t spike as the district and parents had long feared.

In the short-term, the agreement helped the school district resolve a $122 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year and allowed many teachers to keep their jobs.

But the long-term benefit of the deal is much more open for debate.

The school board has repeatedly laid off employees in recent years and then brought them back when more funding became available. The district addressed immediate budget gaps but delayed fixing deeper financial wounds.

That’s basically happened again. The district found more money to pay for teachers and settled its budget for the upcoming school year. But it still faces budget shortfalls in the tens of millions for each of the next two years.

KPBS host Maureen Cavanagh briefly addressed the cycle in her interview with Evans and Freeman. She asked whether it was wise to restore all the laid off educators. Are they all necessary? If not, the district could’ve saved more money for next year.

Evans replied: “We have cut as much as we can cut at this point. We’ve already cut over 2,000 staff in the last few years and there’s just nowhere else to cut, so we would have an inadequate program with less than this.”

We decided to Fact Check the number of staff cut because Evans cited the figure to bolster his position. He claimed the district has already trimmed all the waste it can from its budget and cited a substantial reduction in staffing to back it up.

Budget documents support the staffing trend. Over the past five years, the district has cut the equivalent of about 2,200 full-time positions or about 15 percent of the total workforce. The graphic to the right provides more detail.

Though the statistics back up Evans’ claim, we’ve bumped our rating down to Mostly True because two other recent trends are worthy of consideration alongside staffing changes: funding and enrollment.

In the same period, enrollment declined by about 9 percent. The district reduced staffing by a greater margin than enrollment, but to some degree, reductions in staffing merely kept pace with a smaller student population.

The number of positions has declined by 15 percent, but how much the district actually spends on employees hasn’t slowed as much. In the past five years, the budget for compensation has decreased by about 5 percent.

Neither spending nor enrollment trends affect the accuracy of Evans’ statement. We found they only amounted to key pieces of background to consider, fitting our definition of Mostly True.

Just to be clear, our rating does not reflect an analysis of whether more fat is available to cut from the district’s budget. We examined the narrow issue of staffing numbers.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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