When it comes to money for education, a budget crisis is looming in California. In the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), it could come down to teachers being laid off.
Parents are receiving emails from principals at their children’s schools about possible painful budget cuts. The principals are asking for feedback about how parents want the school to spend discretionary money the district gives to schools. In some cases, parents are being asked to fundraise to make the budget cuts less painful.
Elementary schools with fewer than one thousand students could lose their vice principals.
“That’s disappointing,” said one parent at Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary School in Scripps Ranch. “I know the vice principal here is amazing, and all the boys love him because he’s really good with discipline and keeping them in line.”
The parents at Ellen Browning Scripps received an email outlining other possible cuts. Those include reduced hours for recess and lunch supervisors, librarians and counselors.
“Those are on the chopping block right now,” said Board member Richard Barrera. “Those are under discussion.”
Barrera said the approach is to cut from the top, to move vice principals back into the classroom for example. He also said it is possible the District could offer an early retirement incentive to experienced teachers at the top of the salary scale to free up positions for teachers who don't make as much money.
What about layoff notices?
“We will see how it plays out,” said Barrera. “We’re certainly likely to issue lay-off notices, and in the end, we might have to do layoffs.”
“Education obviously is so important, and it’s crazy we have to keep going through these budget cuts,” said one parent.
Other parents questioned how the District spends its money.
“I think they need to reorganize and look at what they’re doing," said a parent who is upset about District plans to close down a school in Scripps Ranch and build another.
Another parent said, “It looks like they didn’t do good budget control over the years.”
“I wouldn't agree that we're not managing our money well," Barrera argued.
He did add that decisions were made that cost money, such as the Board giving teachers a pay raise in order to try to be competitive with other districts. Barrera said the Board also made the decision to keep class sizes low, which the district is still committed to doing despite the shortfall.
“Having low class sizes, I don’t think any of us would say is wrong, but it's very expensive,” he told NBC 7.
He said the other reason for the shortfall is the Governor’s proposed budget which he claims underestimated economic growth. That could change when the Governor revises his budget in May.
“That will be helpful," Barrera said. “But we still have to go forward with a structural deficit, we have to solve it.”
He added: “We will make this work for kids. Our kids are going to have a great year this year. They will have a great year next year. We’re going to take care of a problem now so we don’t continue to have this in the future.”
In response, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten sent NBC 7 a statement, which read, in part:
"Across our district, parents and schools are meeting to find creative resolutions to help us close the $124 million budge shortfall we face in 2017-18. That process will continue until the board meeting on February 21, we present our budget."
You can see the full statement below.