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District budget cuts loom, questions remain

It is the potentially $200 million question: What will the San Diego Unified School District cut in order to balance its budget for next year?

“All the easy cuts have been taken,” said Bernie Rhinerson, the chief district relations officer. “There are just no good choices left.”

Some of the options currently being discussed involve cutting personnel, eliminating some field-trip programs, and reducing benefits to employees. Cutting staff would mean an increase in class sizes, something that has elementary schools concerned.

For example, with 90 students, La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Elementary has its largest kindergarten class ever.

“One of them is mine,” said John May, president of the school’s parent foundation. “I don’t think the kids with that student-to-teacher ratio are going to get nearly the attention they need in order to get them ready for first grade.”

La Jolla’s elementary schools already receive some of the lowest amounts of funding per student in the district. Torrey Pines, for instance, gets $4,975 per student. The average for a city school is $6,817.

“When you are near the bottom of the funding heap you worry more about the effect of the next round of cuts than you would if you were higher up the list,” May said.

But much of that extra money comes from the federal government’s Title 1 program, which funds disadvantaged and lower-performing schools.

“Schools in La Jolla don’t quality for that money,” Rhinerson said, adding the district financially supports all schools equally.

San Diego Unified already has a budget deficit of

$80 million. With the state projecting a deficit between $12 billion and $18 billion, the burden on San Diego could increase its deficit to $200 million.

To encourage parental involvement in the decision-making process, the district is hosting five town hall meetings, one for each sub-district. The one that includes La Jolla will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Mission Bay High School.

Get involved

Attend the school district town hall meeting

6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9

Mission Bay High School