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San Diego Unified Classes to Balloon in Size…

June 30, 2011

 Emily Alpert has another good piece on the ongoing budget tribulations and their impact on SDUSD.  More than 1,400 jobs are slated to be axed, of those jobs being cut are more than 800 teachers.

After months of agonizing over budget cuts, San Diego Unified quickly passed a budget Tuesday night that will lead to ballooned class sizes in kindergarten, second and third grade; suspended beloved programs that take students to places like Balboa Park; thinned bus routes and a slew of other cuts.

More than 1,400 positions were cut from the payroll, including more than 800 teachers, counselors, nurses and other educators. That accounts for more than one in 10 educators in the school district. All in all, the school district budget shrunk from $1.22 billion this year to $1.057 billion.

As a teacher I can state that this is going to be a tragedy for our students, especially in low income neighborhoods where a majority of students speak another language than English in their homes.  These students need smaller classes and more assistance when trying to learn the intricacies of speaking, reading, and writing English properly.  When class sizes balloon, it is hard to give the individualized attention that students need.

“Make no doubt about it, this board is very, very aware that passing this budget is going to cause grave damage to our schools in San Diego,” school board member John Lee Evans said.

Obviously, I agree with Mr. Evans, but there is another side to this as well.  The laid off teachers, if they stay laid off, will be leaving SDUSD.  They will be looking to move to districts that don’t have budgetary malfeasance issues year after year after year.  This means that SDUSD will lose a lot of talented teachers who have taken on the struggle to educate our kids.  If these teachers who received layoff notices early were planning ahead as teachers are wont to do, they have most likely been looking and interviewing with other districts already.

But the state budget deal could also mean bad news for San Diego Unified. It hinges on more projected revenue — and if that revenue doesn’t come it could mean more cuts in the middle of the school year. Legislators have warned that schools could be forced to slash another week from their calendars if that happens, shortening an already shortened school year. It is unclear how San Diego Unified will weigh that uncertainty against its promise to spare jobs.

Other cuts included:

• Fewer area superintendents to oversee principals.

• Ending a pilot program that had tested out tiny classes in some of its neediest schools.

• Reducing oversight for its gifted and talented programs.

And the school board will have to come back and make more budget cuts next year. The school district faces an estimated $91 million shortfall, one that rivals the $114 million in cuts it made this year.

Its tentative plans to close that gap include shuttering nearly a dozen schools, selling off property, squeezing more savings from its central offices, and swaying its labor unions to make more concessions — something that is far from guaranteed. San Diego Unified had to include those plans in its budget, even though those decisions are still a year away and could change dramatically before then.

The only board member to vote against the budget was Kevin Beiser, who objected to some of the proposed cuts that San Diego Unified said it might make for the year after next, such as hiking first grade class sizes back up again.

Beiser said it would make more sense to increase middle and high school class sizes even more instead. He also objected to vague “central office cuts” that he feared would mean cutting police and arts teachers, who are centrally funded.

I didn’t realize that an additional 91 million will need to be cut next year.  I guess we are moving toward 45 – 50 per class at some grade levels.  At some point people will have to wake up, I am talking about parents who have children in these schools.  You have to KNOW WHO YOU ARE VOTING for!  There are 5 GOP members in Sacramento that are making these drastic cuts to our schools and our children possible, as well as destroying the livelihoods of thousands of teachers across our state.  If you are reading this, maybe it is time to become politically active.  Find your local Democratic Party office, volunteer to phone bank, volunteer to stuff envelopes, call representatives in Sacramento, write Oped pieces to the Union Tribune…just don’t do nothing.  This blog is my little contribution, but I plan to do more.

Want to know who the GOP Five are:  Take this link.  These people need to go:

Tom Berryhill, Oakdale

Experience: Berryhill has long ties to his Central Valley district and the Capitol. He represented an overlapping seat in the Assembly for three terms. His brother and late father have both served in the state Legislature. Berryhill, who was stripped of a rare GOP committee chairmanship for saying the budget was the Democrats’ problem, emphasized the importance of working across the aisle in his Senate campaign. His angle: Like Cannella, Berryhill doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2014. Population shifts are expected to make his district less Republican dominated. His predecessor, former GOP Senate leader Dave Cogdill, voted for taxes in the 2009 budget.

Sam Blakeslee, San Luis Obispo

Experience: As a former Assembly Republican leader, Blakeslee is no stranger to budget talks. He won election to his Central Coast district ­ one of the state’s few swing seats ­ in a special election last summer. His angle: Majority Democrats courted Blakeslee by giving him a chairmanship and staff for a select committee ­ the newly created Select Committee on Recovery, Reform and Realignment. Democrats have a registration advantage in his district, which was previously held by moderate Republican Abel Maldonado, who voted for the 2009 tax increases.

Anthony Cannella, Ceres

Experience: Cannella’s election in an open Central Valley district, in which Democrats have a double-digit percentage registration advantage, was one of the most competitive legislative races of 2010. The former Ceres mayor, who talks often of the balanced budget he helped the city achieve, supported a half-cent sales tax to fund public safety during his time on the Ceres City Council. His angle: Cannella, son of former Democratic Assemblyman Sal Cannella, is one of two Republicans in the Senate who has not signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge. He is the sole Republican to hold a standing committee chairmanship in the Democratic-controlled Senate. A rookie under the dome, Cannella won’t have to worry about re-election until 2014.

Bill Emmerson, Hemet

Experience: Emmerson, a member of the budget conference committee, served three terms in the Assembly before being elected to a vacant Senate seat in a 2010 special election. His angle: Emmerson has called for major changes to the budget process in the past and has left the door open to voting for tax extensions, telling the Press-Enterprise of Riverside County, “I want to see what the fixes are.” The area surrounding his district, which is overpopulated and expected to shrink considerably in redistricting this year, has seen an increase in Latino population and Democratic voter registraton.

Tom Harman, Huntington Beach

Experience: The former assemblyman won election to the Senate after narrowly defeating a more conservative candidate in a 2006 special primary. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010. His angle: The Huntington Beach Republican was widely considered a moderate during his six years in the Assembly, and works closely with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as the ranking Republican of the Senate Rules Committee. Future election challenges may not be a concern to Harman, who turns 70 this spring and is termed out of the Legislature in 2012, but a future gubernatorial appointment may be attractive.

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