San Diego Unified signs off on final budget

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education signed off on its final budget Tuesday night after hundreds of teachers' jobs were hanging in the balance for months.

District officials have spent months grappling with balancing a $124 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year. The deficit is blamed on declining enrollment and rising pension costs.

Now, after more than 1,000 teachers received layoff notices earlier this year, the final number looks closer to 150 layoffs.

“It’s improving. We’ve had hundreds of people over the last couple of months that have been recalled to positions in the district,” said board president Richard Barrera.

The district is still figuring out which of the 300 currently unemployed teachers can return to the district in the fall. That leaves those like fifth-grade teacher Hailey Champine still in limbo.

“We all have livelihoods and have to move on. I hope I get to come back to San Diego Unified. I don't know if there's any possibility of me coming back to my school at this point,” Champine said.

Laid-off teacher Sierra Williams is also left wondering what’s next.

“I don’t know if I’ll have a job and I don’t want to spend money and so it’s just hard, really, really hard," Williams said.

“The process is frustrating but the process is set out by state law," Barrera said. "We're as frustrated as anybody else because if we had the ability to hold off on those notices until we knew what the situation was going to be at the end, we’d save people a lot of anxiety."

The district should make its final decision on teachers by the end of July, but many argue that doesn't leave much time before the school year begins.

"It's just wrong and we know that when our colleagues do get recalled, they're going to have to scramble to provide a quality classroom opening for the students and it's not right," said teacher Jenny Rivera.