Opinion: Prop. J is a partial solution to a real problem


By Richard Barrera

President, San Diego Unified School District

The past three years have been extremely difficult for school funding and, looking into the future things remain very bleak.

The San Diego Unified School District, which educates 130,000 of our children and is the second largest school district in California, has lost more than $300 million in funding — nearly a quarter of our operating budget — due to state funding cuts the past three years.

These cuts were, of course, brought on by the present recession and they show no sign of abating. Next year, we face yet another $140 million cut in our funding — and we are deeply worried that these cuts will devastate our academic programs.

It is an unfortunate fact that California, which once led the nation in per capita student funding, has fallen to 47th out of 50. I truly believe that the voters of California, when give a chance, will be willing to invest again in their schools and in their children — and in all of our futures. It will take several years for the state to recover financially. In the meantime, we cannot afford to lose a generation.

Exacerbating this problem is the fact that we have been making very significant and steady progress to increase student achievement. These very real gains will be jeopardized if we cannot reverse the trend of these budget cuts.

As a partial local solution to this problem, the school district has placed Proposition J, the Teacher Retention and School Funding Measure, on the November ballot. It will provide $50 million a year for five years in local school funding.

Prop. J funds may only be spent in support of classroom learning, to prevent increases in class size and to prevent massive teacher layoffs.

To ensure these funds are spent as promised, the board will establish a Citizens Oversight Committee and require annual independent audits of Prop. J funding.

Prop. J alone will not solve our school-funding crisis. But it will be a critical local step that we can take to support our kids and to our public schools.

I ask your support and your vote for Prop. J on Tuesday.