SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Unified School District plans to recall about 300 of its 800 laid-off teachers in an effort to keep K-3 class sizes relatively small, Superintendent Bill Kowba announced Friday.
The jobs of the instructors, and about 600 classified staff, were cut because of tight finances when the budget for the upcoming school year was approved. But that was before district officials understood the full impact of the recently enacted state budget on district revenues.
After an analysis, it became clear some of the teachers could come back, Kowba said.
"That analysis is still ongoing, but we have concluded that we will have approximately $27 million in added cash -- after state deferrals -- that can be used to restore staff for this school year," Kowba said.
The district will apply about $22 million toward bringing back the equivalent of about 300 full-time teaching positions. Full-time equivalents are used in accounting to account for part-time jobs and shared positions; the actual number of affected employees could be higher.
"This news is huge," SDUSD Trustee Kevin Beiser said about funneling the money into the early grades. "We're taking what we know is working now and protecting it."
The district will have ratios of 24 students per teacher in most K-3 classes, and 20 per teacher in 29 "high-need schools," Kowba said.
The lower class sizes are particularly important in economically disadvantaged areas where parents work multiple jobs and children are often learning to speak English, he said.
Beiser, a South Bay math teacher, said students who are struggling overall or don't understand a particular lesson will receive the one-on-one attention they need with the smaller ratios.
Third-grade literacy rates are accurate predictors of future prison population sizes, according to Beiser. He said students who are literate when they complete the third grade are highly likely to finish high school and attend college.
The state will defer about 38 percent of the money it is obligated to send to San Diego until July 1, 2012, an accounting gimmick used to help balance its own budget. The funding deferrals have been going on for years, and will force the SDUSD to borrow $220 million during the next school year to pay for its operations.
The school board will soon take a look at ways of spending the leftover $5 million, and further analysis of state funding levels is needed to see if any classified staff can be returned to work, Kowba said.
He said the district expects a budget shortfall of around $90 million for the 2012-13 school year.
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