San Diego Unified School District approves $1 billion budget

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Unified School District approved a $1 billion budget Tuesday evening. A couple of the major issues include no teacher layoffs and reduced classroom sizes.

This is Cindy Marten's first year as superintendent. The former teacher and principal is in charge of the state's second largest school district with a budget of more than a billion dollars.

During a news conference announcing details of the budget, she said, "My focus is students first and my approach to building a budget is beginning with the classroom. This budget focuses on students first and makes a down payment on their future."

It is a completely different approach to previous district leaders. Marten did it by creating a team of teachers and staff who started working on ideas for the budget last summer.

School board member John Lee Evans told 10News, "It's a much more student-centered approach rather than a generic district budget approach and where are we going to cut."

Marten said this was her plan.

"Strategic staffing, property utilization and central office reductions," she said.

In other words, resource teachers are going back into the classroom, district-owned property not being used is being sold and more than 470 teachers are taking advantage of the early retirement program.

"It reduces class sizes, puts more teachers in the classroom, has no layoffs, focuses on English learners," Marten said.

This budget will mean a maximum of 25 students in kindergarten through third grade classrooms and restores the 180-day school year, meaning there will be no employee furloughs.

Despite the progress, Marten cautioned there are lingering effects of the recession and there is still a long way to go.

"While we must live within our means, we recognize that the funding of public education in California is woefully inadequate," she said.

The district realizes selling their property is a one-time solution and there are only so many properties they can get rid of, so now they are focusing on permanent budget solutions for the future.

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