Public education statewide falling under budget axe - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Public education statewide falling under budget axe

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Unified School District will submit a report stating it will meet its financial obligations, despite projected budget shortfalls and mid-year reductions, although the Board of Education learned today the cuts would be less than previously expected.

"This is a report to the board and to the community as a whole about our financial health for the first four months of the year from July 1 to Oct. 31 and also a projection of the next two years," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "It is the official reporting of our commitment to maintain the operational ethicacy and the financial solvency of the district."

The board voted 4-1 to approve the first of two interim financial reports to the San Diego County Office of Education in which they declared a "positive" certification, meaning the district could balance a preliminary budget calculated based on a worst-case scenario that projected mid-year cuts of $30 million and a deficit of about $95 million next year.

The report also included a list of possible solutions which included layoffs for more than 700 employees next year, although the board spared some vice principals and non-classroom teachers, and about 450 more staff reductions in 2013-14, to balance the budget and stave off insolvency.

"We need to send a very clear message that we are not going to allow outside control of this district," said board Vice President John Lee Evans. "We are going to remain solvent."

The district will get some budget relief as Gov. Jerry Brown announced that statewide funding to kindergarten through 12th grade education would be reduced about $79 million mid-year instead of $1.5 billion, meaning SDUSD would most likely face a budget deficit of about $73 million next year and would only have to cut about $7 million to $8 million mid-year, according to Chief Financial Officer Ron Little

The actual reductions in cuts would not be reflected until the second interim report, due in March, is calculated following the state budget update next month, according to district staff.

"It's very important that we all understand this is the first interim budget, this is not the final budget," said board member Kevin Beiser.

The board took steps toward mitigating mid-year reductions by eliminating 15 vacant positions for an estimated savings of about $1 million per year, according to financial staff.

The board also voted to approve the recommendations of the school realignment/closure committee, which included moving the Barnard Mandarin Chinese Magnet School campus to a larger site, consolidating San Diego High Communications with San Diego High Science and Technology, and consolidating Crawford High's four schools to a comprehensive program with one principal and two vice principals.

The grade levels at the schools within the Lincoln cluster would be changed from kindergarten through sixth grade to kindergarten through fifth grade, and the Mission Bay cluster would have the board's support in establishing a plan to ensure continued viability of Mission Bay High School.

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