State Legislators agree to reverse education cuts in next year's proposed budget

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 20:33:14-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGTV) -- California State legislators announced Wednesday that they have agreed to reverse the proposed cuts in education in next year's budget, assuming that the federal government will step in with a stimulus package.

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom said the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a $54 billion shortfall, which included an $18 billion cut in education. But on Wednesday, Senate pro Tempore Toni Atkins announced in a joint statement:

"Acknowledging the strong likelihood of additional federal relief, the plan would use reserves to avoid overcutting now, while still keeping reserves on hand for the future, and ensuring full funding of k-14 schools."

"We are tremendously encouraged by the news that we are hearing," San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten said.

But school board vice president Richard Barrera said that is only the first step.

The San Diego Unified School District serves its 105,000 students on a $1.3 billion annual budget. But with challenges mounted by the pandemic, Barrera said they would need at least $200 million more to reopen schools safely.

"We'll need more staff, more nursing support, more counseling support, more custodial support to clean the classrooms regularly, and physical protective equipment for the staff," Barrera said.

Barrera added, with less federal funding, the longer students will have to continue distance learning. But Marten said other factors also contribute to a full reopening come fall.

"Starting school back up again, it's not going to be a flipping of a switch. It's a dimmer switch because there are different models. There's a money side to it, there's a health guideline side to it, and their personal preference side to it," Marten explained.

Some students with compromised immune systems will continue to require robust distance learning. But the district's goal is to return to a mostly in-person teaching curriculum.

"The whole country knows that we need our schools open," Marten said. "It gets the economy up and running again. It allows parents to go back to work. But more importantly, it gets kids the education they need so that there is not that additional learning loss that students have already endured because of this pandemic."

State legislators have until June 15, 2020, to finalize the budget proposal. Based on that, the San Diego Unified School District will build its annual budget by June 30, 2020.