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$23 Million Budget Shortfall Threatens Jobs In San Jose School District

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A projected $23 million budget deficit is being blamed for potential layoffs in one of Northern California's largest public school districts.

School Board members in the East Side Union High School District say staff cuts could number as high as 150 with counselors, student and family advisors, custodians and school administrators being affected.

The proposed cuts have been a talking point on campuses like James Lick High, where students worry that their advisors and counselors could lose their jobs.

"They're pretty important because they check how your grades are and, if you are doing bad, they help you pick it up by pulling you out of class and setting goals," said sophomore Liana Chavoya.

"I had a counselor who made me want to go to a big university to actually pursue my dreams," said sophomore Izabelle Hernandez.

Manuel Herrera calls it one of the worst budget crises in his 30 years on the district's Board of Trustees.

"Nobody wants these cuts. They make no sense. We have to find a way forward," said Herrera.

He said there are several causes, including unfunded state mandates, rises in special education requirements, skyrocketing pensions and declining enrollments.

Additionally, he said the state requires school districts to budget three years ahead, when they never know how much money will actually come in.

"In the first year, we can be comfortable about the revenues. In the second year, you're just guessing and in the third year, you're making stuff up. Nobody knows," explained Herrera.

The district is now facing a March 15th deadline to notify staff of potential layoffs that could happen in June.

"It tells me that the district doesn't really understand what we do on campus," said David Rosas, who works as a student advisor at James Lick High.

He says his job is to help resolve conflicts between students and to make the campus safer. He will likely get a layoff notice.

"We just feel like the district is always putting us in a panic mode, which is not necessary," Rosas said.

Teacher and staff unions are now asking the district for a deeper examination of their budgets to make sure the projections are accurate and to find possible savings.

"It's an insane system and puts everybody in a predicament," Herrera said.

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