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School Districts Peer Into Budgetary Abyss

March 7, 2012

School districts peer into budgetary abyss | UTSanDiego.com.

Pretty in-depth article in the UnionTribune about school districts around the county.  This is NOT looking good for teaching staffs, and unless Jerry Brown can get some sort of tax initiative passed by voters, teachers will lose jobs, class sizes will balloon and it will ultimately harm our kids.

I am only posting the first of four pages that I recommend my readers to click through (above) and read.  Keep in mind while reading this article that California used to be one of the top states with regard to funding public education, we are now near the bottom (47th).  A big reason for this is the ridiculous Proposition 13 which limits property taxes being raised in areas to support public schools.  Thus, CA has to take taxes out of sales and other kinds of taxes to make ends meet.  Prop 13 should be abolished and a more sound and just tax system should be levied on land and business owners.

Eighth-grade algebra teacher Robert Bates helps Amber Hard during a lesson at Palm Middle School in Lemon Grove. County students have shown improvement in state standardized tests, with a larger proportion than ever scoring proficient or higher in English, math, science and history this year.

Eighth-grade algebra teacher Robert Bates helps Amber Hard during a lesson at Palm Middle School in Lemon Grove. County students have shown improvement in state standardized tests, with a larger proportion than ever scoring proficient or higher in English, math, science and history this year.

The Carlsbad school board just voted to eliminate 20 percent of its teaching positions.

San Diego Unified is poised to issue more than 1,600 pink slips to teachers.

Sweetwater Union is contemplating one-year cuts that amount to nearly triple the cuts previously made in a decade.

At this point, school officials can’t say whether all or even some of that may come to pass.

School districts are facing perhaps their most difficult and uncertain budget year ever. The annual budget dance has always had a specter of unpredictability because deadlines force districts to make budget and staffing decisions well before they know how much money they will get from the state.

This year, the guessing game is even more difficult because the governor’s budget is dependent on a proposed tax increase being approved by voters in November. Districts say even if that measure, or an alternative tax-increase proposal, passes, their budgets will still be tight.

But if there is no tax increase, many school officials say they must make huge cuts. Given the uncertainty, they are preparing for the worst-case scenario.

Districts big and small are under financial distress. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently put out a report stating one in three students in California attends a district in some degree of financial trouble. On the list are seven districts in San Diego County — the most ever from the region — including Borrego Unified, Carlsbad Unified, Fallbrook Union, Grossmont Union, Ramona Unified, San Marcos Unified and the National School District.

Notably absent from the list is San Diego Unified, which has received considerable attention for its financial problems and where officials late last year even raised the possibility of insolvency. But according to county officials, Unified had a positive rating for the reporting period because it has a plan to meet its obligations — painful as that may be.

The district is trying to close a $122 million deficit in next year’s $1.1 billion operating budget. Its plans put nearly 20 percent of its elementary school teachers in jeopardy of getting laid off as well as hundreds of nonteaching employees as it copes with the state’s fiscal crisis. The district also is selling off some real estate and seeking union concessions. Trustees are expected to vote to issue pink slips at their meeting tonight.

All I can say to that is WOW!

Teachers, administrators, parents and those who have been paying attention to schools in California in recent years are familiar with the routine: Preliminary school budgets are dire; pink slips warning of layoffs are issued and then often rescinded — or most of them — after the budget machinations settle in Sacramento.

San Diego Unified, the largest school district in the region and the second-largest in the state, invariably makes the biggest layoff waves because of its size. Last year, the district issued 1,350 layoff notices only to recall 90 percent of them. That annual budget move has left many suggesting school districts have been crying wolf, perhaps even intentionally to put pressure on state officials to provide more money and perhaps increase taxes.

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