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San Diego Unified Schools Could Be Right Back in the Red

July 22, 2011

I noticed this piece by Emily Alpert in the Voice of San Diego and wanted to pass it along.  In the article Emily is writing about how delayed payments from Sacramento could put SDUSD in the red by 2.5 million dollars earlier than expected:

San Diego Unified could dip $2.5 million into the hole next spring because California is putting off payments to schools, even more than the school district had been expecting.

Its finance chief says that makes it impossible for the school district to rehire any more of its jettisoned employees. It could also force them to let go more school workers who don’t teach.

“This is a very sobering report,” Superintendent Bill Kowba said. “The common theme is incredible risk from one week to the next.”

Nearly half of its day-to-day state money will come in late, putting it at risk of going into the red. San Diego Unified can still count on the money in its budget. But it has to borrow to cover its costs until it actually comes in. So the $36 million in surprise revenue the district got in the wake of the budget’s passing only means $20 million in cash this coming year.

The California budget was widely greeted as good news for schools, giving them roughly the same amount of bread-and-butter funding as last year. With that unexpected money, San Diego Unified added more than 300 jobs for elementary school teachers tokeep class sizes from ballooning next year.

Bringing back teachers was cheered by parents and the teachers union, but financial hawks warned that the money to restore those jobs was uncertain, relying on rosy projections from the state that may or may not pan out.

This is another, completely different risk for school budgets: not how much money they will get, but what to do when they don’t get the money when they need it. California has pushed off payments to schools as a budget gimmick.

That frustrates school districts because it means they have to borrow to get money they’re supposed to have. School districts like San Diego Unified have been promised a check. They need cash.

Chief Financial Officer Ron Little said San Diego Unified will try to keep itself above water in the spring by recovering some unreimbursed costs from the state and freezing its hiring. Its last resort would be laying off workers who don’t teach, who can be let go in the middle of the school year.

The school district also fears that other unexpected costs could worsen its cash problems to the tune of another $5 million to $7 million, including paying to settle labor disputes and the added costs of covering mental health services that used to be shouldered by counties.

I really think it is time that California, and the country as a whole, got together to fund education properly, and not with gimmicks like Race to the Top.

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2 Comments
  1. Grace Valentine permalink

    Democracy that supports individual human rights requires an educated populace. Schools are the ‘monkeys in the middle’ – charged with making democracy possible while simultaneously promulgating the oppressive societal forces that serve models of government that devalue and ultimately destroy individuals. We can argue budgets, policy and parties till the cows come home but when will we start really thinking about large, political institutions like SDUSD and consider the merits of decentralization arguments such as those published by former teachers, those who know what schools do without spin or smear? Many, many of us want to tell the truth about places like SDUSD. Institutional education that relies on compulsory attendance doesn’t deserve my tax dollars – talk to the teachers. We can educate students without districts. Really. How about independent models and external accountability? Something better than home schooling, but no more top-heavy, political machines. SDUSD hired Alan Bersin. Fast and Furious is a hallmark of his style of leadership – as we who worked for him at SDUSD know all too well. Do we really want to keep paying for this kind of thing? Pay teachers, pay rent on teaching spaces, ditch the districts. So glad I have the First Amendment! It can keep me cool when I can’t pay for A/C.

  2. I have good experiences working at two different SDUSD schools. I am not belittling your experience, I am actually curious as to your version of things…share if you like…

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