• John Evans' Commentary Regarding District's Balanced Budget

    Posted by Jennifer Rodriguez at 7/2/2014 12:30:00 PM
    "That ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ School Budget Prediction Was a Dud"
     
     
    At Superintendent Cindy Marten’s recent press conference, reporters seemed genuinely surprised that she could present a balanced budget with some good news while filling a shortfall first estimated to be $106 million.

    How is this possible after one board member has repeatedly said that the district is paying the price for years of financial mismanagement? What happened to one claim that the board’s earlier plan was a “ticking time bomb” destined to blow up right around now?

    Such contradictions are not new. A few years ago, San Diegans 4 Great Schools, a group of philanthropists, business leaders, parents and others who wanted to remake the school board, railed that “public schools are failing” in San Diego, but last year the Broad Foundation found the district to be one of the top four urban districts in the nation.

    So what is the truth about San Diego Unified’s budget? How did we get here? Since I joined the board six years ago, we have continuously faced massive and unprecedented budget cuts. At the same time we did not lose our focus on improving student achievement. We even dared to develop a plan, Vision 2020, to make us into a world-class school system. We balanced the budget every year and academic achievement kept going up. We realize that we still have a very long way to go to achieve success for all students in our district regardless of race, ethnicity, first language, disability or income level.

    How did we do it? We started off with “good cuts.” We did away with millions of dollars of outside contracts and consultants and relied on our home team. We found greater efficiencies, such as increasing the minimum ridership on each school bus to reduce the transportation budget. But as the cuts continued, we had to reduce our staff. We significantly decreased the number of employees in the district. We limited layoffs as much as possible, because of the instability that it brings to students.

    We survived with federal stimulus dollars, property sales and employee concessions. Property sales have been referred to as “selling Grandma’s jewelry to pay the rent.” I am happy to report that “Grandma’s jewelry” has produced a great return. Our Class of 2020 had a great experience in their first few years of school with small class sizes. Our Class of 2012 had relative stability in their high school years without major cuts in course offerings.

    Secretaries, teachers, the superintendent and the Board of Education all took pay cuts. Every employee took a cut either in furlough days or a percentage salary reduction. The 2010 negotiation not only delayed pay raises, but included taking concessions in the meantime. This crucial fact is often omitted by our critics. Full implementation of the raises for teachers does not occur until the 2014-2015 school year. Our critics deride the overdue raises without acknowledging the money our schools gained through the concessions. No ticking time bomb has blown up.

    Proposition 30 stopped the massive cuts to education, but the current plan does not reach the 2007 level of funding until 2020. After its passage we realized that state revenues would not catch up with our current level of service and class size for about three years. Would it make sense to make massive, disastrous cuts in the first two years after Prop. 30 and then put the system back together after the third year? No. We had to build a bridge.

    Last year we realized that the only reasonable way to meet our budget shortfall was through employee attrition and property sales. At that time, I said that we needed to set up a school stabilization fund from the property sales for this unique three-year period.

    For next year’s budget, Marten took a student-centered approach, which meant first looking at what was needed in the classroom and secondarily looking at how that affected adult employees. In her March proposal she indicated we would need an additional $30 million in property sales to balance the budget. I made clear that I could not support substantial additional property sales. It was the right thing to do in previous years. In an emergency you take extreme measures. We are no longer in such a dire situation. The whole point of the school stabilization fund was to be a temporary measure as we worked on closing the structural deficit.

    The board approved an early retirement incentive this year as an alternative to disruptive layoffs. It was up to the superintendent to make the board’s plan work. Marten and her staff worked very closely to try to fill as many classroom vacancies with existing staff to lower ongoing expenses. By June she had reduced the additional property sales to $7.3 million. That may even go down further when last-minute changes to the state budget are reviewed in July.

    As a board, we directed the superintendent to look as specifically as possible at how to balance the budget over a three-year period. In my first term I realized that it was impossible to plan more than one year at a time. Sometimes we even faced mid-year budget cuts. But this time, I did not want to approve an official one-year budget without knowing exactly how it would affect the next two years. Next year is the second year of the school stabilization plan. We can now reasonably say we are on track to eliminate the structural deficit over the next two years. We can then move into positive revenue territory.

    This will allow the superintendent and the board to focus on educational improvement, rather than ongoing budget crises. Next year’s budget includes a full school year and avoids the instability of massive reductions in staff and programs. But it also makes a down payment on what is most important: reduction of class size in the early grades, beginning to re-open elementary libraries, preparing teachers for Common Core, expanding transitional kindergarten to all elementary schools, continuing with graduation coaches to make sure that the Class of 2016 is on track to meet the new requirements and a strong focus on K-1 literacy and English-language learners.

    One sign of a successful budget: People pack the auditorium when they have complaints about the proposed budget. There was no packed auditorium for this budget vote. The board voted to approve the budget 5-0, the first time this has happened since I joined the board in 2008.

    This forward-moving budget was possible for three major reasons:

    • We had a board majority from 2008-2013 that listened to our constituents and voted to keep our schools stable and class sizes as low as possible by approving property sales and negotiating concessions from all employee groups;

    • In 2012, Californians voted for a down payment for education funding through Proposition 30;and

    • We have a brilliant superintendent who knows how to implement Vision 2020 with a laser focus on student learning, and who crafted a budget to achieve those goals.

    John Lee Evans is a member of the San Diego Unified Board of Education.
    Comments (-1)
  • Statement regarding appointment of San Diego Unified Superintendent

    Posted by Staff at 2/27/2013
    John Lee Evans
    President, San Diego Unified Board of Education
    February 27, 2013

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Yesterday Superintendent Kowba announced that he will retire at the end of his contract on June 30. As a former admiral, Mr. Kowba navigated the district through turbulent financial waters these past four years. He brought stability to this district and demonstrated great integrity. Under his leadership our schools made significant gains in student achievement. We have seen many great successes in our district over the past few years, but we realize that we still have a long way to our goal of a quality school in every neighborhood.

    In our selection of a new Superintendent we first want a leader who is prepared to carry out the San Diego community based school reform model, Vision 2020, adopted by the board. What does this mean? We want a leader whose primary focus will be on raising achievement levels for all students in our district. We want someone who will focus on our return to schools that will meet the unique needs of each neighborhood. We want someone who will focus on effective teaching by providing support to teachers with meaningful evaluations that improve instruction. We want a servant leader who will demonstrate strong leadership and work collaboratively with district staff and the communities. We want a leader who will be tirelessly focused on the needs of children and will expect all adults to do the same.

    We want an educator who is a visionary leader. We want someone who has respect from stakeholder groups with differing opinions. We want a leader who can assertively take San Diego Unified to the goals of Vision 2020.

    We have found such a person in our own district. Cindy Marten has been an educator for 25 years. She started in the Poway School District and then came to San Diego to work at one of our most challenging schools in City Heights where she has been for 10 years. She started off as a teacher and then became the principal. Central Elementary serves 850 at-risk youth of which 99% live in poverty and 85% of the students are English Learners. She has delivered on the promise of a high quality neighborhood school in spite of all its challenges. She believes that a child should not have to leave his or her neighborhood for a quality education. She has worked hard for 10 years with a team of close to 100 staff members to make this dream a reality through their motto and driving vision they call “The Central Way: Work hard. Be kind. Dream big. No excuses.”

    This is clearly a non-traditional appointment. Each season has a need for a type of leader. It is time for us to bring in an educator who has demonstrated that schools even in the highest poverty neighborhoods can be turned around for success. We want this to happen across the district.

    Ms. Marten has demonstrated that she can produce all of the results that we are looking for in Vision 2020 by collaborating closely with her staff. The Board is unanimous in its support of Ms. Marten and we are sure that in the coming months our teachers, our staff, our students and our community will unite behind Ms. Marten’s leadership. This is a bold step forward for San Diego Unified to fulfill its mission of an excellent education for each and every student in our district.
    Comments (-1)
  • Nov. 7 Message to Staff: Your Hard Work Saved San Diego Unified Schools

    Posted by Linda Zintz at 11/8/2012

    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. 

     

    Thanks again,

     

    John Lee Evans

    President, Board of Education

    Comments (-1)
  • School Board President Review of Progress - October 2012

    Posted by Staff at 10/15/2012 4:40:00 PM
     

    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:

     
    Kept teachers in the classroom
    Ensuring students have the teachers they need has been my top priority. Only with a stable staff and reasonable class sizes can we continue to prepare our kids for college and careers. By negotiating with our employees, we achieved cost savings that allowed us to recall 1,500 teachers who were slated for layoffs. Despite four years of the worst state funding crisis in the history of California, class sizes in our district are now among the lowest in the state, particularly for our youngest students.

     
    Read more...

    Keeping Teachers in the Classroom For Our Kids

     
    Improved student achievement
    Over my four years on the board, our test scores have steadily gone up in math, language arts, science, and social studies, to the point where we now have the highest achievement levels in the history of our district for every group of students. We are in first place among the large California districts in both our reading and science results. We are recognized as one of the leading urban districts in the nation.
     

    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.

          Stats

     

    Cut administration and sent the money to the classroom
    As the state budget worsened, we cut hundreds of millions from central administration, consultants, and outside contracts. In my first year on the board, we actually increased the money that we sent to the classroom. As the state cutbacks to education reached historic crisis levels over the last four years, we worked collaboratively with our employees where adults agreed to sacrifice pay and benefits in order to protect low class sizes and critical programs for students.
     

    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.

     

    Governor Brown

    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.

     
    Crafted a long-term vision for our 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.

     

    Read more…

    Vision 2020 for academic excellence

    Looking at the Class of 2020 (Video)

     

    Developed community-centered school clusters
    To increase community involvement in our schools, we have developed school clusters in every neighborhood. They arec omprised of the neighborhood high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it. While only a few of these existed when I came on the board,we now have 16 clusters in all of the communities of San Diego. San Diego Unified is a large and diverse district, so the clusters ensure our schools are responsive to the needs of their community.
     

    Read more…
     

    Created an advanced education technology program
    To prepare our students to lead the21st century, we have implemented the i21 (Interactive 21stClassroom) program, which will equip every student with a laptop or iPad by 2014. Coupled with new classroom technology, digital learning tools, and training and support for our teachers, i21 will help personalize learning and train our students on the tools of tomorrow. We are now over halfway in the rollout of this program, and San Diego Unified is recognized as a national leader in educational technology.
     

    Read more…
     

    What lies ahead?
    We must keep our laser-like focus on student achievement. We will do this by continuing to make the classroom a priority over administration. We are moving forward with our plan to have aquality school in every neighborhood and a way to measure it. We must keep up with cutting edge technology. We must increase community involvement through stronger cluster councils. We already know what works. Now we must do it. We still have a long way to go to reach every child in every school everyday.


    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.

     
    FLASH! API Scores --Once again San Diego Unified is showing great improvement:

    SD Unified rated among top 3 urban districts in state

    Comments (-1)
  • Memo to teachers, certificated staff, about budget.

    Posted by Staff at 5/24/2012 2:00:00 PM

    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

    Comments (-1)
  • Statement of John Lee Evans - May 10, 2012

    Posted by John Lee Evans at 5/10/2012 4:30:00 PM
    Difficult budget times and economic crisis can bring out the best in us and the worst in us. As the President of the San Diego Unified Board of Education, I am calling for all parties to take a calm, rational approach to resolving our budget challenges.
     
    As a psychologist I know that one of the first steps in a crisis is a period of denial. Many people for a long time have been in denial about the severity of the problem. Now they are beginning to wake up. But since last fall the Superintendent and the Board have been tirelessly working on solutions to a very difficult problem.
     
    Recently we have heard voices on the extreme side. One board member is panicking and saying we need to declare insolvency. Some union leaders have said that the financial crisis is not as deep as we have been saying. Candidates for mayor have been opining about how to run the school district without knowing the facts.
     
    I am here to say that we will balance the budget and we will do the very best we can academically with our limited resources. We must avoid denial and avoid panic. What we must not do is turn against each other when it is Sacramento that has failed to uphold the popular mandate of making education the top priority of state government.
     
    Declaring insolvency does not solve the problem. We have balanced our budget every year and we will continue to do so. San Diego Unified continues to have one of the highest credit ratings of any school district in California.
     
    We have pointed out the best solution in the short run, which is for our employee groups to negotiate with us for concessions to reduce the number of layoffs. We have been very clear and consistent on this. Is this fair? Absolutely not. But we refuse to sacrifice the education of San Diego’s kids, we have to work together and not give up. At the same time, we must also continue our fight for adequate funding for public education in California.
     
    Insolvency simply means that we give up local control of our schools and have the state come in and take over.
    Insolvency does not mean that we have a solution to our budget deficit.
     
    Insolvency does not mean we will not have to lay off staff.
     
    Insolvency does not mean we will not need to sell property.
     
    Insolvency does not mean we will not have to close schools. These are all solutions that a receiver would have to take if we do not have the courage and fortitude to implement those solutions ourselves.
     
    What insolvency does mean is that, as a first step, the district will need to go deeply into debt with a loan from the state that can take up to 20 years to pay off and which removes our local control of the schools.
    A state receiver would probably close 30 to 40 schools. They would have us sell much more property than we are contemplating selling. Within a year there would be further massive cuts in teachers and support staff. 
    How is any of this an improvement?
     
    I must point out that in the midst of this crisis that our teachers and support staff are performing in an exemplary manner and all of the leaders of the board, district administration and employee unions need to follow their example. This week several of our high schools were cited in US News and World Report as the top high schools in the nation. The irrational path to insolvency would further undermine the stability of our staff to continue to serve and educate our students.
     
    At this point everybody is waiting to see the Governor’s May Revise to see if there are any changes to the state budget. We are not expecting any major changes. Any change will hinge on the November ballot measures and that is too late for next year.
     
    We are facing a very difficult situation. We have known this all year and we have sought the cooperation of all stakeholders. My job as the leader of the board is to ask for all of us to pull back from polarizing positions and to continue to calmly work together. We must pull ourselves out of denial and at the same time avoid non-productive panic. Superintendent Kowba is a showing calm, steady leadership at the helm, which serves as a good example for us all.
     
    In conclusion, let me stress that as president of the Board of Education, I am committed to leading us through a rational, thoughtful budget process based on real implementable solutions rather than rash proposals that could do more harm than good for this district in the long run.
    Comments (-1)
  • San Diego Unified’s vision for educational excellence

    Posted by Jack Brandais at 1/5/2012

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • IN THE NEWS: New SD school board leader announces health care pact

    Posted by Staff at 12/16/2011

    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»

    More coverage

    Letters from Dr. Evans to:

    Comments (-1)
  • San Diego School Improving and Will Survive This Crisis

    Posted by Melissa Hudson at 12/6/2011 1:30:00 PM

    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 Evans

    Vice President, Board of Education
    Comments (-1)
  • State must change insane budgeting process:

    Posted by John Evans at 7/10/2011 9:00:00 PM
    One Board Member's Perspective
    The good news: We will be able to maintain class size in K-3 at the current levels in 2011-2012, which is resulting in a recall of approximately 300 K-3 teachers. Our budget shortfall shrank from about $115M to about $87M, still a massive cut.
    The bad news: At this point we can only do this for one more year, because the state has put off solving the next year's big problem--and they are even threatening to cut our budget in the middle of the year! We still have a net loss of over a thousand employees and have lost many important academic programs.
    During the budget process this year we were forced to make San Diego Unified budget decisions without having the full information from the state. It turned out that some who received layoff notices will be recalled, but if the notices had not been issued at the time, the county would have intervened in our budget starting in March.  If we recalled teachers any sooner, we would not have received approval for a loan that will allow us to meet payroll.  This is truly an insane system where we must make decisions with a gun to our head. 
    I am proposing a board action on July 12 to address the issue of midyear cuts (impossible), the budget planning process for next year (insane if we have to continue operating under the same rules) and the need to advocate for funding that would prevent the major cuts we would have to make the following year.  Below is the text that explains the quandaries in which we find ourselves:
     
    H 11. Board Direction to Staff Regarding Advocacy for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Budgets
    Board of Education Meeting, July 12, 2011

     

    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.

     

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