Superintendent Kowba and all San Diego Unified employees:
Voters in San Diego and across the state have spoken loudly and clearly in support of our public schools. Prop 30 and Prop Z won because all of our employees throughout our district have proved through hard work and dedication to students that we have schools worth investing in.
The positive election results are an indicator that the tide against public education has turned. The state will now have more resources that can be used to stop the hemorrhaging of the past four years. The first good news is that we will not have to cut 14 days off this school year which will help ensure that our students continue to achieve at higher levels.
But while we are not suffering immediate further cuts, we must still contend with our current budget that has already been decimated by four years of cuts. We can only do this by continuing to work together. We are San Diego UNIFIED.
I am proud to be associated with the staff, students and parents of San Diego Unified. I also want to offer my congratulations to our newest member of the board, Marne Foster. She is a lifelong educator and a proud San Diego Unified mom who will be an excellent addition to the Board of education.
John Lee Evans
President, Board of Education
The past four years have been tough for education. The worst budget crisis in California history has made it a constant struggle to provide our students with the teachers and resources they need. However, by keeping our priorities straight and working collaboratively with teachers, parents, and the San Diego community, we have:
We are also excelling in other areas, and on metrics beyond test scores. In 2010, we received a national award for outstanding music education from the Kennedy Center. We are also focusing on physical fitness, character education, and critical thinking. Our graduation rates are up, our dropout rates are by far the lowest among large California districts, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has recognized us for our success in improving student attendance rates.
Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the latest top-down reforms, we have achieved success by actually listening to the people working directly with students in the classrooms – our teachers, principals, support staff, parents, and students themselves. By listening rather than dictating, we have learned about exciting success stories of student achievement in neighborhood schools where everyone works together and kids don’t fall through the cracks. This community-based reform model, which continues to produce proven results, lies at the heart of our approach to improving schools.
At the same time, I have advocated for adequate funding from Sacramento and Washington. I am organizing other board presidents across the state to fight for funding for our schools. We are all responsible for preserving and improving great public schools, and we must all follow the example of our district employees in being willing to make sacrifices for the sake of our next generation.
John was in Sacramento to hear Governor Brown’s “State of the State” address, and to personally tell the governor about the devastating impacts that continued cuts could have on our students and schools.
I authored the Vision 2020 plan for educational reform in San Diego Unified. It broadens the ways in which we measure student success to go far beyond standardized test scores. It includes critical thinking, creativity, physical fitness, music, and the arts. It places an emphasis on our neighborhood schools as the backbone of local communities, with a quality school and great teachers in every neighborhood. It means our students will graduate from high school ready for both technical careers and college.
With adequate revenue we can do so much more. On the November ballot voters will have a chance to weigh in on three ballot measures that will affect funding for San Diego Unified.
San Diego Teachers/Certificated Staff:
This week, the Board of Education reluctantly issued 1,534 certificated layoff notices. In making this difficult decision, the Board is in complete agreement with all of you who have pointed out the harm that this will do to our schools. (To see my comments at the Board meeting click here.)
The simple fact is that the State of California has not given the District enough money to pay all of our employees next year. As I told one teacher, it would not be fair to recall you and then turn around and say we do not have the money to pay you.
The District is facing a $122 million deficit next year which could increase as a result of new May Revise projections. We do need all of our teachers, but the District cannot print money. We cannot simply vote away the budget shortfall. Contrary to what some people have said, the District does not have large reserve funds or hidden pots of money. We have made our financial records available for review by any union designated auditors. They can verify how serious this situation is. We have even decided to sell off property to avoid further layoffs.
Only a limited number of teachers will be called back to take the place of teachers going on leave or resigning. But the fact is that 1,085 positions have been eliminated to balance our unrestricted general fund budget with additional cuts in child development and other funds. They will not be coming back unless we come up with an agreement between the District and SDEA. To save these jobs in time, we need to begin discussions on possible solutions right away to meet the deadline for the budget in a few weeks.
We will continue to fight together for more money from Sacramento and support the November ballot initiatives. But hoping for a solution in November is too late to save jobs for the next school year. We cannot wait; we need to find a local solution to an immediate problem.
As I have noted, the District we cannot print money and we cannot simply vote away the budget shortfall. We have all waited for the Governor’s May budget revise, which in years past, was often an improvement. But this year it turned out to be worse than the January budget.
We have to face reality and do the best we can under the circumstances. I continue to believe that we can work together to find a solution for the benefit of the children of San Diego.
John Lee Evans
President, San Diego Unified School Board
The following appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, January 5, 2012.
As we enter 2012, the San Diego Unified School District is also focused on the year 2020. How can we afford to do this when we are facing budget shortfalls never seen over the past century? Simply put, we cannot afford to wait.
San Diego Unified’s Vision 2020 for Educational Excellence is an initiative approved by the Board of Education in 2009. It lays out a plan to improve public schools by the time our current fourth-graders graduate from high school in 2020.
First, Vision 2020 changes the way that we measure success. The mandated state and federal tests do not measure much of what we want our students to learn. They can actually lead to a narrowing of the curriculum.
All parents want their children to learn the basics, but that is not enough. Our revised Goals for Student Achievement also measure critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as physical fitness, art, music and other areas. Likewise, simple graduation rates do not tell the whole story if those who do graduate are not ready for college and career.
Rather than a vocational track or a college prep track, we want all of our students to be prepared for either one. The new state-of-the-art auto tech facility at Madison High simultaneously prepares students for immediate employment as an auto mechanic or entry into college to study mechanical engineering.
Second, in San Diego we want to revitalize our neighborhood schools. Schools with strong ties to the neighborhood have more parental participation. While we strongly support school choice, we do want to reverse the trend that has led to half of our students leaving their neighborhoods.
We have an aggressive initiative to develop a quality school in every neighborhood within the next five years. To do this we have defined 12 criteria of a quality neighborhood school, ranging from a broad curriculum to digital literacy to a safe, supportive environment. Each school staff will soon be entering into a discussion about what they need to do to meet these criteria.
Third, we will focus on effective teachers in every classroom, which is the single greatest contributor to academic success after socioeconomic status. Professional learning communities allow teachers at each grade level to take the responsibility for the achievement for all of the students at that school. Teachers will not be isolated in the classroom without peer and supervisor input. We will highlight the best practices in successful classrooms and replicate them throughout the district.
Fourth, we have set up a system of support and accountability. We hired Superintendent Bill Kowba who has demonstrated his stability and commitment to San Diego over the years. The district office provides support for the neighborhood schools, while giving them flexibility and holding them accountable for student achievement.
Vision 2020 is not a “pipe dream.” We are already implementing it. The Class of 2020 received their laptops in the third grade and will benefit from San Diego’s nationally recognized i-21 technology throughout the rest of their school career.Many schools already have teachers collaborating to make sure that all students are progressing. The new Goals for Student Achievement will guide the teachers, students and parents each year.
The district’s new default college prep curriculum ensures college opportunities for students from all neighborhoods. At the same time more career tech programs are being added to the high schools.
Local school communities have become energized over the past two years through cluster councils that focus on the entire K-12 experience in every neighborhood from City Heights to Clairemont to La Jolla.
Many “reformers” tout school choice or charter schools or changes in board governance as the panacea for improving public schools. The San Diego Reform Model is more comprehensive. We already have one of the leading school choice programs in the nation. We approve many more charters than most districts. Each board member has already connected with the local cluster councils. But none of these are comprehensive solutions.
San Diego’s community-based school reform model maintains a laserlike focus on student achievement and is sustained through a collaborative process. We already know what works. It depends on strong principal leadership, teacher collaboration, use of assessment data, parent support and visionary leadership from the superintendent and his staff.
We are committed to true reform, San Diego Unified-style, which will prepare students for careers in our biotech industry and other high-tech industries that have not yet been invented. We have made steady, incremental progress over the past several years. We are now ready to make more dramatic gains between now and 2020.
We cannot do this alone. We can only do it with the support of our local taxpayers who see the value of investment in public education. We also need the collaboration of parent groups, business and labor groups, the scientific community, local universities and every San Diegan. We all have a stake in strong public schools.
Evans is president of the San Diego Unified Board of Education.
With labor officials at his side, Dr. John Lee Evans said employee groups are stepping up to help the San Diego Unified School District solve its fiscal problems. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»
Letters from Dr. Evans to:
San Diego schools have a lot to be thankful for in this holiday season. We are steadily moving towards a quality school in every neighborhood. We have many California Distinguished Schools. We have received awards for our exemplary career technical education programs. We are increasing access to college prep programs through our a-g program. We received a national award from the Kennedy Center for outstanding music education.
We are improving our schools through Prop S with state-of-the-art facilities for auto tech and broadcasting. We are leading the nation in technology. We are putting a laptop in the hands of every student over the next few years. We have rededicated ourselves to athletics and fitness as an important part of the school experience with updated athletic facilities. We are also adding arts facilities to offer a broad curriculum that includes music and the arts.
We have seen increased community involvement in 2012. Mira Mesa High has a community school agreement with the district. The Clairemont and Madison clusters have formed a Clairemont Mesa Educational Foundation to support their schools. Central Elementary in City Heights has a Dads Club with 200 fathers in attendance. We also voted to protect Title 1 funding for students living in poverty at schools with 40% or more students in that category, while giving additional funds to the schools with the highest concentration of poverty.
We are all aware of the economic crisis affecting our community, our state and our nation. Since I came on the board three years ago we have cut hundreds of millions from the budget and have reduced our teaching and support staff. We are now doing the same job with about 2,000 fewer employees. Nevertheless, the teachers and staff continue to work hard. Test results this week will show that we are doing an outstanding job in improving student achievement in comparison with other districts across the country.
As a board member, I will do everything within my power to continue the fine work of our schools. We can only divide up the money that the state decides to give us. We will take whatever measures necessary to make sure we balance our budget to protect our local control of the schools. This will require shared sacrifice on the part of our employees, students, parents and community. We are making the tough choices. Now the Governor and the legislature need to make the tough choices to ensure that our schools have the funds we need to operate.
San Diego schools are worth investing in and we have the results to prove it.
John Lee EvansVice President, Board of Education
1) Direct the staff to formally advise the Governor and legislature that San Diego Unified has followed their direction is using the limited funds restored to the budget to restore teaching positions. As a consequence of this direction to commit that money for 2011-2012, the District will be unable to make any midyear cuts. Furthermore, we have already negotiated five furlough days for 2011-2012, so we are unable to reduce the school year any further.
2) Direct the staff to develop an advocacy plan to align the dates that we are given our budget and the dates we must make personnel decisions. One option would be for the state to give us budget figures by March 15 that we are allowed to use, so we can make personnel decisions before the March 15 layoff deadline. Another alternative would be to allow us to delay personnel decisions until June when we have an approved budget. Here is the scenario for this year and why we must change:
January 2011: Governor introduces proposed budget with approximately $60M cut.
March 2011: We are instructed by our overseers that we must base our March Interim Report on a potential cut of $115M. We are not allowed to follow the Governor’s proposed budget, because it is based on tax extensions that are not likely to happen. If we do not include layoffs to meet that shortfall, we will not be granted a positive rating and the County Office of Education will take the first steps to take control of the district. We approve the layoffs on March 15 (legally mandated deadline for giving warning notices regarding layoffs) to delay county intervention at least until June.
May 2011: The Governor’s May Revision is similar to the January budget. Once again our budget overseers do not allow us to use those figures, but insist that we continue with plans for the $115M cut.
June 2011: The legislature passes the budget, which the Governor vetoes. Our budget is due within days. We must borrow over $200M (Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes) to cover our expenses due to the fact that payment of the limited funds approved by the state is deferred for several months (sometimes until the next year). Our bond advisers inform us that if we restore any spending before a budget is passed and signed by the Governor, we will be charged exorbitant interest or more likely be denied the loan. We will not be able to meet our ongoing commitments by July 14 if we do not have the loan. Within a couple of months we will not be able to make payroll.
July 2011: With the passage of the budget and the calculation of how much money we will receive the Superintendent determines that there is enough money to recall approximately 300 elementary teachers for the 2011-2012 school year, although there is not likely to be funding for the following year.
If the layoff notice deadline and the budget had been aligned those 300 teachers and their schools would not have had to gone through unnecessary anxiety and turmoil during the past four months. It also would have eliminated the period of uncertainty for all of the teachers who have not been recalled.
Under the current rules, however, if we had not issued those notices on March 15, our budget would not have been approved and we would have had county intervention. If we had recalled them even in June, we would not have been able to get our loan.
3) Direct staff to come up with a minimum operating budget for 2012-2013 as soon as possible with the recognition that further cuts will seriously imperil our schools. Even flat funding will cause great damage to our schools. During the past couple of years we have managed with federal stimulus dollars and one-time funds, such as sale of property, to keep our schools operating. Staff needs to determine what per pupil amount is necessary to only maintain programs and staff, which was the promise (but not the reality) of the approved 2011-2012 budget.
4) Direct staff to form a working partnership with the largest urban school districts in California to cooperate as a powerful advocacy force to protect public education in our neediest areas. We have more in common with Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities than we have with our suburban neighbors. We also represent a huge block of voters within our constituencies. As one example, last year a majority of San Diego voters supported Proposition J, which would have significantly helped us in this crisis. We need to investigate the possibility of changing the threshold for local school taxes to allow local communities to invest in local schools.
The state has passed a budget and the Governor has signed it. What now?
In typical dysfunctional Sacramento style we now have a budget that is full of contradictions and uncertainties. I still don’t know how much the funding improves under the new budget. While they restore about $36 million in per pupil funding, they make reductions in three of our other funds. We don’t know yet how much those reductions will affect us. The Board already approved some restoration based on getting more money, but we still don’t know the net improvement.
As soon as this is calculated I believe that the Superintendent needs to inform those teachers and staff members who can be recalled as soon as possible. This will allow them to return to their original positions at the same schools. This will provide more stability to our schools. This will also make it clear who is not going to be recalled. We must not engender false hope. The state has not given us enough money to recall everyone. Students’ families also need to know what is going to be restored as they make plans for their enrollment.
Here is another sad reality: The state has created an even bigger problem for next year. They have essentially told us not to worry about the $90 million dollar hole for the following year. What does this mean? That means everyone who is recalled this year would have to be laid off next year along with hundreds more staff members. That simply cannot be done. We need teachers in the classroom and a secretary in the front office!
Is the state going to put us in a worse position next year? Next July are we supposed to make the same last minute decisions that we have to make now? Here are two simple ideas:
1) Next year the State needs to approve the education budget before we have to notify employees if they have a job or not. Planning ahead six months is not too much to ask. This year we have less than two months.
2) When the state tells us to operate at the 2010-11 level or any other level, they need to provide the funds to do that. No more gimmicks.