San Diego

Parents, Educators Respond to School Districts' Devastating Budget Cuts

"I stayed in the public schools because I truly believe that our public education systems are so tantamount to everything that the American middle class is about," said Kim.

Parents and educators called on the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to protect students from what they called devastating budget cuts on Monday.

A conference was held at the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) at about 10 a.m., on the 10300 block of San Diego Mission Road, according to the SDEA. At the meeting, the school district was asked to address budget woes without harming student's educations.

"Right now we're doing everything possible to fight for our educators -- for the services our students deserve," said Carlos Mejia, the Executive Director of SDEA. 

The SDUSD's Board of Trustees will decide on Tuesday whether the district should move forward with significant budget cuts that will eliminate some enriching educational opportunities, special services for vulnerable students and layoff 833 educators, said SDEA officials.

Currently, the proposed cuts are for a worst-case scenario budget that was created by district staff. Educational officials say the district plans to use this budget, even if additional funding for school programs surfaces later.

Educators at the conference expressed outrage that the district is not waiting for a complete picture of all the funding allocated for school expenses, which won't be fully available until June.

They say the district needs to take time to work with everyone and all the different stakeholders to solve the problem.

"We are understanding the fact that this budget doesn't come just overnight," said Mejia, the SDEA Executive Director. "It's a long standing practice so we are going to do everything possible to push the district into making the correct decision."

Mejia says the district has not taken all the necessary actions to ensure there is funding for teachers. He also pointed out that educator pay is below average and there is a teacher shortage in San Diego.

"Students build a connection with their teachers, they build a connection with their educators, with their service providers," said Mejia. "You are putting this on the line, you are risking these relationships."

One parent said she attended the conference to advocate for her son and the important educational programs that allow him to attend school -- programs that may be cut.

"We can't talk about being serious about the success of our kids and our students and developing their educations in a meaningful way, if those needs aren't being met," said Carol Kim at the conference.

"It just drives me nuts that we are constantly being asked to put our schools on the chopping block," Kim added. "I don't understand why we would. This is one of the most important things we do with our tax dollars and the education of our kids."

Kim said she was upset about the lack of transparency in how these budgets are created, and that the district did not give parents an opportunity to respond to these shortfalls in a more timely manner.

Educators say it will be difficult to maintain programs for special needs kids with the proposed cuts. Angry parents and teachers also attended the SDUSD board meeting last week, holding signs to protest the cuts.

"I stayed in the public schools because I truly believe that our public education systems are so tantamount to everything that the American middle class is about," said Kim. "It's the cradle of our middle class, frankly."

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