San Diego Unified Budget Primer

San Diego Unified Budget Primer

The total operating budget for San Diego Unified in 2017-2018 is $1.3B. This does not include construction bonds from Props S and Z.  The budget includes $1.15B from the state and $94M from the federal government and $60M from local funds and transfers.  Some of the funds are restricted (such as Title I for supplemental programs for students in poverty).  The state’s new Local Control Funding Formula gives extra funds to the district to assist English Language Learners, students on free lunch program and foster youth

The main part of the budget is the Unrestricted General Fund.  This is the largest fund, which must be used to meet the academic needs of all of San Diego Unified’s students.  The amount of the General Fund Unrestricted in 2017-2018 is $1.07B.

The bulk of our funds are determined by the legislature and the Governor.  The only locally approved funds are the Proposition S and Z bond funds, which can only be used for construction and technology. California ranks 46th among all of the states in education funding based on per pupil funding, even though the California Constitution calls for California to spend the average of the top ten states. Proposition 98 calls for 40 percent of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education. (This was meant to be a floor, but has become a ceiling.  Furthermore, under certain circumstances the Prop 98 minimum is suspended.) Currently, San Diego Unified is funded by the state with a base fund per pupil ranging from $7,301 to $8,938, depending on grade level.

San Diego Unified has balanced its budget every year, but not without sacrifice.  How do we start the budget process with a shortfall? If the cost of status quo services goes up more than the increase in funds from the state we have a shortfall.  For example, to maintain the status quo next year (the same programs and staff levels) will require a state increase of $59M due to increases in pensions costs mandated by the state, automatic longevity raises for staff, health care increases and other increases or loss of funds.  We must make up this shortfall just to continue with our current programs and staff even without salary increases.  When staff must be reduced we are required to issue layoff notices based on seniority based on Ed Code/Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is partially mitigated by retirements and resignations at the end of the year, but layoff notices must be issued by March 15 per state law.

Necessary increase by state to continue current programs and staff (status quo) in 2018-2019:  

$59 million.

The Adequacy Shortfall is much higher than the status quo shortfall.  Adequacy Funding means that we have a reasonable amount of teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and support staff to do what educators and the general public expect for our students. In 2014-2015 San Diego Unified calculated that shortfall to be $350M. While funding was increased during the following years, mandated costs (such as pensions) have absorbed some of that increase.  We still estimate the Adequacy Shortfall to be about $3,500 per pupil.

Necessary increase by state for San Diego Unified to provide all needed services:  $350M.

How are budget decisions made? Priorities are determined as the Vision 2020 Local Control Accountability Plan is developed with input from stakeholders.  Based on these priorities district staff must submit preliminary budget plans on December 15 (before the Governor proposes his budget) and on March 15 (before the legislature approves a budget).  During these months district leadership must make final budget adjustments based upon priorities previously determined and the amount of funds from the state.

We must live within our means.   For us to maintain our current programs we need an increase of $59M from the state for next year.    We will always adjust to circumstances and do the best we can with the resources that we are provided.  At the same time we will urge our Governor and legislature to reprioritize public education towards Adequate Funding.  We do not need to be one of the highest funded states for San Diego to meet its mission. Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula has taken a big step towards better academics through local control. But local control is not enough. The big step for the next administration is Adequate Funding, with which we can achieve our Vision 2020 mission of a quality school in every neighborhood and finally erase the achievement gap.  We are all responsible for accomplishing this as citizens, taxpayers and voters.




Board member advocates for later high school start times

School board  to begin conversation at October 10 board meeting

Early start times for high school go against the established research on teens’ biological clocks.  San Diego Unified Board Member John Lee Evans is advocating for the school district to eventually set 8:30 a.m. as the earliest start time for our high school students.  Currently most of the high schools start around 7:30 a.m.

Recently SB 328 mandating later start times for high schools was approved by the State Senate, but did not garner enough votes in the Assembly.  It is now up to local districts.

Research has shown that the circadian rhythm of post-pubescent teens makes it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. Sleep deprivation causes serious problems.  Two out of three U.S. high school students are sleep deprived.  Later start times can result in reduced tardiness and absences, as well as students performing better, especially in first period classes.  A later start can improve driving safety, emotional and physical well being and academic achievement. Schools that end later are still able to participate in all athletic and other extracurricular activities. San Diego Unified already has a later start time at one high school, Kearny High School, which starts at 8:45 a.m.

Research has shown that later start times do not significantly affect students’ bedtimes, so there is a significant gain in sleep time.

Based upon this evidence a later start time is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and the National PTA.

Board Members John Lee Evans and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne will make a proposal at the next school board meeting to review the feasibility of later school start times of 8:30 or later for secondary schools while giving priority to the district’s high schools.  The district will not mandate a change from the top, but will give each school community an opportunity to review the research and petition the district for change. Any change will depend on finding a means to make the change without increasing transportation costs.

Guiding principles for SD Unified budgeting

Prior to beginning the budget process for the next year we need to declare our guiding principles, so that we don’t have to start each year at Square One.

First the top focus needs to be on those expenditures that lead to greater student achievement.  Second, we need to be fiscally responsible.  The key is to integrate these two items.  Bottom line: we need to live within our means.

How have we been doing the past few years?  Student achievement, broad curriculum and meaningful graduation have all gone up.  What about the fiscal health of the district? The structural deficit has been mostly eliminated.

There is a narrative out there that the district has continued to increase the staff while the student enrollment has gradually gone down.  FALSE.  Here are the facts:


2012-2013**      10,899

2017-2018           9,936

Net loss:        963 positions (8.8%)

*Number of employees is higher than number of full time equivalent positions,because some are part time employees

**Year before Cindy Marten became Superintendent

Certificated positions: From 6632 to 6054 = Net loss of 578 (8.7%)

Classified positions: From 3758 to 3425 = Net loss of 333 (8.9%)

Management positions: From 510 to 456 = Net loss of 54 (10.6%)


2012-2013       113,279

2017-2018      105,793

Net loss:          7,486 students  (6.6%)

We must continue to adjust staff upwards or downwards each year depending on student enrollment.  This is living within our means, because the state pays us according to the number of students attending.

Focused on student success while living within our means