Officials at California’s second largest school district, San Diego Unified, are now openly discussing the possibility of insolvency.
Predictably, district officials are blaming state education cuts for the district’s massive financial problems, including the prospect of a $118 million deficit this year. To put that amount in perspective, when I served on the Grossmont Union High School District Board of Trustees, our entire annual budget for a district of 24,000 students was $140 million.
So, are state education cuts alone to blame for San Diego Unified’s woes? Not so fast.
Two years ago, well before the current round of education cuts went into effect, district officials were already seeing the financial warning signs of trouble ahead.
Did the district take every possible step to bring costs down when the insolvency warning light started blinking on the dashboard? It doesn’t appear that way.
Earlier this week I discussed on this site how despite the warning signs, the union-dominated board voted to impose an expensive union-only Project Labor Agreement on $2.1 billion in school construction approved under Proposition S. PLA’s drive up construction costs by up to 15% according to one study.
Union officials like to sell financially irrational PLAs with an argument that they will at least create “local jobs” (as opposed to all those evil merit shop contractors who import their workers from another planet, right?). It turns out that the district has failed to meet even that criteria: only 32% of workers on Proposition S projects live in the geographic boundaries of the district, or less than half the 70% promised under the PLA.
District officials should explain why they voted to needlessly drive up construction costs by over $30 million at the very time they were being warned of financial trouble ahead.