By Claire Trageser
City News Service
San Diego Unified School District Board of Education members said Tuesday they have run out of options to avoid cutting more than 900 jobs next week.
The school board is expected to vote at its next meeting, March 10, to eliminate the equivalent of 910 full-time jobs, which district staff determined would be necessary to resolve an estimated $120 million budget shortfall for the next school year.
Because some of the jobs are shared by part-time employees, the actual number of people receiving layoff notices is expected to be higher.
Under state law, teachers must be notified by March 15 if they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
Board member Scott Barnett said while the board has directed staff to explore alternatives for lessening budget impacts, "right now we have no other
Although Barnett said he would like to consider options like cutting back health coverage for school district employees, he said the school board cannot make those decisions.
"There are other options (the district) can look at, but we can't look at them," Barnett said. "We need our partners to work with us to find solutions."
If the school board decides next week to cut the jobs, teachers and other staff will receive pink slips warning them their jobs will likely be eliminated before the next school year.
In previous years, most of the teacher layoffs were rescinded before the jobs were actually chopped.
However, district officials have said that because of the state and local budget deficits, and because the district's biggest expense is personnel costs, the chances are slimmer that layoff notices will be pulled back this time.
About half the proposed cuts will affect elementary school teachers, including a proposal to increase class size from 22 to 29.5 for kindergarten through third grade.
Another 230 of the proposed layoff notices would go to middle and high school teachers, including 83 English and 45 music instructors.
The proposed reductions also include eight principals, 25 vice principals, 42 nurses and 59 counselors.
Board member Kevin Beiser, himself a teacher in National City, said he is not ready to give up on stopping the layoffs.
"I want to do everything I can possibly do to hold the line on class sizes, to prevent laying off my fellow teachers, to find the resources to prevent laying off music and band teachers, to prevent laying off nurses and counselors and to preserve the other programs that are important to our children's education," Beiser said.
Beiser called it "appalling" that the state government was forcing public education funding to be cut.
However, school board Vice President John Lee Evans said Gov. Jerry Brown has taken a "reasonable stand" on education budgets.
"In recent years we haven't had as strong an advocate as our current governor," Evans said.
In an attempt to reduce job cuts, school board President Richard Barrera sent a letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council on Friday asking that a list of redevelopment projects being considered by council members be amended to include an advance to the school district of $64 million that would be due in fiscal years 2018-20.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said what Barrera was really requesting was not an addition to the redevelopment list, but an amendment to a 1992 cooperation agreement between the Centre City Development Corp. and school district.
Because that deal was not under consideration at the meeting, action by the council would violate the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law, Goldsmith advised.
Council President Tony Young said he would place the issue on a future agenda if his colleagues displayed support for an amendment.
During Tuesday's school board meeting, Barrera asked staff to investigate whether the school district could switch from using redevelopment funds for a downtown library project to using money from Proposition S, a school repair bond measure passed in 2008.
All board members and many audience members at today's meeting wore yellow stickers that read "Save Music," a gesture to show support for arts education. Several students who signed up to give public comment at the meeting also played musical instruments or sang.
"Music is basically just like salt," one student said. "You can go without it, but everything is much better with it."