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San Diego Unified approves nearly 850 layoffs to balance budget

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified School board voted 5-0 Tuesday night to cut nearly 850 positions in an effort to close its $124 million budget deficit.

The layoffs will affect occupational therapists, counselors, custodians, library assistants, community police officers and more.

After board members and Superintendent Cindy Marten spent much of the meeting listening to pleas to reconsider the job cuts, they said the cuts were necessary and mandated by law to balance the district’s $1.3 billion budget.

“There’s no way you can cut $124 million out of the school district and not have impacts on children,” said board member Kevin Beiser.

“We have been through this before and we’ll get through this again,” said board president Richard Barrera.

“We need to move forward but we must balance this budget,” said board member Sharon Whitehurst-Payne.

“It’s disappointing, it's frustrating that our district is not managing their budget. It's not listening to the stakeholders,” said Kisha Borden, a member of the San Diego Education Association. “These decisions were made without any input from educators, without any input from parents, students, the people who are on the ground, in the classrooms with our students every single day. We had zero input.”

In January, the school district – the second largest in the state – announced that the projected deficit for the 2017-18 budget had increased from $117 million to $124 million.  The deficit is blamed on declining enrollment and rising pension costs.

By law, layoff notices have to be presented by March 15 although several factors, including state funding, could minimize the number of layoffs before the start of the school year in the fall.