Is the district eliminating arts and music?

The Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) programs at San Diego Unified are one of the ways we help every child develop as a complete individual. This school year, we’ve expanded to acquire 900 new musical instruments, new band uniforms and a new music library for increased access. Going forward as we continue to grow our commitment to expanding arts education, all four arts disciplines will continue to live within our schools. Dance, music, theater and the visual arts will continue to be taught by highly-qualified teachers at every instructional level – elementary, middle and high school. For more information, click here to read the letter from Visual and Performing Arts Advisory Council Chair, Jeanne Christensen, and VAPA Director, Russ Sperling.



Why is the district having budget trouble now?

The current budget deficit was caused by multiple factors. Part of the issue is historical. The district has run a structural deficit in the tens of millions of dollars range for several years. Additional pressure this year is due to lower than expected funding levels by the state, rising pension costs and a competitive labor market for professional educators. The district is committed to resolving these structural issues and putting all our schools on strong fiscal footing for the future.


Central Office

What areas of the district will be most impacted by the budget changes?

Superintendent Marten committed that the bulk of the budget reductions would come first and foremost from the central office – to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. The solutions outlined in March eliminate some 355 positions, including high-level management positions, from the central office. The Board of Education and the Superintendent have also taken steps to share in the reductions by cutting their own pay.



Class sizes

Will class size increase if any teachers are laid off?

San Diego Unified has some of the lowest class sizes in the state, and that will not change under the current budget plan. Our core class sizes of 24 for grades TK-3, under 36 for grades 4-5 and 36 or lower for higher grades will not change. This is a commitment we made with SDEA in its contract.



Collective bargaining

Do any of these solutions require more negotiation with our bargaining units?

A small percentage of the budget savings included in the current plan require negotiation with the unions representing district employees. We are hopeful an agreement will be reached with our partners.



Can my school start a foundation to help?

California is required by its constitution to provide full funding for our schools, yet our state continually ranks near the bottom in dollars spent per student. Therefore, many schools have organized registered charitable organizations (non-profit 501(c)3 organization) to bridge the gap created by inadequate state support. San Diego Unified warmly welcomes the participation of many parents who contribute toward the financial strength of our schools. Conversations about which positions and programs can be funded by non-profit organizations are individualized and should be directed to our human resources division. Before creating a new structure, please consider whether your school community already has a PTA, PTO or another type of non-profit organization.   Please be advised that ALL registered charitable organizations have the same state and federal regulatory laws and requirements to maintain compliance.  Each of those is able to raise money to support schools. Your school principal may be able to provide additional detail.


Internal Audit

Is the district eliminating internal audits?

No, we will be issuing an RFP for a Risk Assessment and development of a 5-year audit plan with input from the Audit and Finance Committee. The plan will then be implemented by one or more professional audit firms with specific, high level experience and expertise in the areas that will be examined. Our reasoning is that our current model has been focused on areas of minor risk with major potential risk areas going unexamined. Development of the 5-year plan will give the Audit and Finance committee more meaningful input into the work.  The audit firms will ultimately be managed by District staff but will conduct arms’ length audits and report back to the committee, giving the committee greater autonomy and protecting against internal influences. Separately, regarding ASB audits, we plan to shift the ASB audit function back to Fiscal Control (in Finance), where it lived previously, and will reassign the two ASB auditors there.


Next school year

What will the next school year be like?

The purpose of the budget solutions proposed by the district is to put our schools on strong financial footing into the future. Following passage of the plan, our deficit for the current year will be eliminated and the deficit for the coming year will be cut in half. We want parents and students to know our schools will be here to serve them into the future.


Physical Education

Are you eliminating PE?

Physical education is an essential part of every child’s development, and the district plans to continue PE for elementary school students and students at all levels. Elementary teachers will continue to be responsible for delivering the physical education program to their students.


Prep time

Will teachers still have time to prepare for class?

The district is not eliminating elementary school prep time, and teachers will continue to receive the prep time they need to be effective educational leaders.

On April 26, 2017, San Diego Unified approached SDEA about discussions to restore the elementary school preparation time teaching program for the coming school year. There has been significant media attention to the prep time teaching program, as some students receive their arts and physical education instruction from these prep time teachers. The district has been clear from the start of the budgeting process that all students will continue to receive age-appropriate arts and physical education next year – regardless of any changes negotiated to the prep time program.

The prep time program will continue for 17-18 school year while negotiations with SDEA continue over structural changes for future years. The final shape and size of the program will be adapted to meet student needs and enrollment at participating schools.


Preschool for All - Early Childhood Education

Is preschool or early childhood education being reduced?

The district will have the same number of Early Childhood Education classrooms next year as we do this year. There are zero cuts in preschool opportunities for parents. To quickly view some highlights or our Preschool for All program in the past year, click on this link.


Propositions 30/55

What happened to all the money from propositions passed to help schools?

Voters in San Diego have consistently shown strong support for education and our local schools. Last year, we voted for Proposition 55 to partially replace state taxes that were set to expire from Proposition 30. These ballot measures were designed to provide added funding for education in California, and they have helped restore state funding for education following its steep decline during the last recession. California continues to fall near the bottom of the nation in its support for our schools.


Race and Human Relations

Is the district ending its support for minority families?

The important work of this department will continue through the Family and Youth Advocacy department. Equity for all remains at the heart of who we are and what we do as a district.



Will schools be safe next year?

The safety of every student is our top priority.  

Parents should also know each school has an approved school safety plan that is implemented by school staff.

You may read more about school safety in the current environment here in this letter from interim School Police Chief Mike Marquez.


Special Education

I’ve heard about lots of cuts to special education. Is that true?

The district is committed to fully serving the needs of our special education population. The district is committed to refining the service delivery models in the special education department, which you can read about here in this letter from Executive Director Deann Ragsdale. We will continue providing each and every student with the services called for in their Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, in full compliance with the law and best practices for our students.


Staff Impacts

What will the impact be to staffing levels?

On March 14, the district will bring forward its second interim budget for FY2017-18. At that time, we will show a balanced budget. We will show the savings was achieved, in part, through a net staff reduction of approximately 900 full-time equivalent positions. Until that time, the below information is designed to help the public understand what is still an evolving process.

On February 28, the Board took action to eliminate 891 full-time equivalent certificated positions (FTE’s) (See REVISED 2-24-17 Resolution PKS 2017-18 and Exhibits A & B). This group includes teachers, counselors, nurses and others. These employees received preliminary layoff notices by March 15

We anticipate that many employees who receive layoff notices at this point will, in fact, have positions in the district when the new school year begins. The actual number of impacted staff will continue to decrease – and layoff notices will be rescinded -- as employees choose early retirement or leave for other reasons. Therefore, the final number of layoffs will continue to change until the process concludes.

In addition to the teachers, the Board voted to eliminate 404 full-time equivalent classified positions, requiring notification to 585 employees. These employees are being notified of their impacted status and offered options, which vary according to their hours, seniority, and previous positions held. The actual number of employees effected in this group will also decrease as employees choose early retirement or leave for other reasons.

Finally, some 100 senior management and administrative positions – both certificated and classified -- were also eliminated by the Board on February 28.

The total number of positions eliminated by the Board action across all classifications is 977. These totals are available online in Board docs at


State funding

Could the Governor increase spending on schools this spring?

Since we are addressing a structural deficit that has been a longstanding issue, it is unlikely additional state funds in the spring will significantly impact the solutions necessary to stabilize our schools. Most budget experts in Sacramento agree the Governor and the Legislature have additional monies that could be allocated to education this year in their state budget. San Diego Unified has urged the Governor to support increased school funding in this letter shared with his Office. 


Teacher raises

Why did the district give teachers raises when the budget was already stretched thin?

As part of our commitment to continue providing our students with the best possible education, San Diego Unified approved raises this year for teachers and other employees. The school district is one of the largest employers in San Diego County, and like other large employers, we operate in a competitive labor market, driven in part by the increasing local cost of living. We want our teachers to be able to continue to afford to live in the communities they serve, and we want to be able to continue to attract and retain the best teachers in the nation. Therefore, we will continue to offer highly competitive salaries into the future.



Why are these changes necessary now?

Over a number of years, the district has been able to balance our budget avoiding layoffs through one-time solutions, chiefly, the sale of real estate and advocacy at the state level. Such one-time solutions have been exhausted, and the district has committed to resolving our structural deficit once and for all to put our schools on a firm financial footing into the future.



How have you notified families about these changes?

For years, school district leaders have warned about inadequate funding for education in the State of California. We currently rank near the bottom of the nation in support for our schools. The school district also frequently reports on its financial status to the school board and the public at large. In December of last year, the district reported it was facing a projected deficit of $117 million. Since that time, the Governor released his draft budget, and lower than expected funding levels resulted in a slightly larger deficit – now at $124 million. Superintendent Marten and other district leaders have spoken about this challenge repeatedly since that time. (Link to TV interviews). The district has been honest about the challenges we face and our plans to stabilize school funding and create a stronger school community for the future.


Vice principals

I’ve heard all vice principals are being eliminated. Is that true?

Vice principals play an important role in our schools, and the district will continue to have vice principals in many schools following the implementation of our budget solutions. All high schools receive district funding for at least 2 vice principals. Middle schools also receive funding for vice principals, including a second vice principal at schools with more than 1,000 students. Similarly, elementary schools with 1,000 students or more will receive district funding for a vice principal.