Teacher Pensions Blog

This afternoon, I spotted a tweet from a San Diego parent: 

There's something particularly wrenching about being asked what services should be cut at your kid's school to pay for increased employee pension & healthcare costs, when most working parents don't have pensions. https://t.co/Vs6uMojuSt cc @sdschools

— Ashley Lewis (@AshleyJPL) January 12, 2018


I followed the link to the survey, and a message from the San Diego Unified School District said it was seeking input on how to resolve a growing budget shortfall due to "increases in costs outside of the district’s immediate control, such as healthcare costs, utilities expenses, and state retirement contributions that are all expected to rise for the foreseeable future." 

In the pension world we call this "crowd out." Benefit costs are slowly crowding out the discretionary money available for states, districts, and schools to spend on other priorities. San Diego is now seeking input on what to prioritize in its cuts. Here's it's proposed list: 

  • Reduce centrally funded professional development opportunities not related to mandated activities. ($1-$5M) Explanation: If a professional development service is legally required, it would not be reduced. 
  • Reduce substitute and hourly costs by optimizing staff schedules, training, and professional development. ($1-$500k) For example, reducing professional development offered during school hours when substitutes may be required.
  • Reduce some central office funded positions from 12-month to 11-month and/or 11-month to 10-month. ($1-$500K)
  • Reduce custodial services. ($1-$7M)
  • Reduce landscape services to schools. ($1-$500k)
  • Reduce non-mandated health services in areas where alternative services can be provided. ($1-$9m)
  • Reduce centralized support of parent education and outreach. ($1-$2M)
  • Reduce/eliminate non-mandated transportation. ($1-$2M) Example: If a child is transported as part of their special education services or other federal mandates, their service would be maintained.
  • Realign school bell schedules to maximize efficiencies within transportation. ($1-$250k)
  • Reduce central support of career technical education programs. ($1-$1M)
  • Reduce school police support services to schools, classrooms, staff, and the community. ($1-$1M)
  • Reduce non-mandated mental health services in areas where alternative services can be provided to students. ($1-$4M)
  • Reduce support for non-mandated services within special education programs. ($1-$5M)
  • Reduce central office IT support to services to schools, classrooms, staff, and the community. ($1-$200k)
  • Reduce/eliminate early childhood education (preschool) in areas where alternative services can be provided to students. ($1-$8M)
  • Reduce or eliminate music and art in schools. ($1-$4.5M)
  • Reduce library hours or close libraries. ($0-$1M)
  • Reduce centrally funded counseling services. ($1-$2M)

We've written before about how this is a national trend, how rising pension costs are only just beginning to hit California schools, and how these trends are projected to affect Los Angeles. Our sober policy analyses have attemped to raise the alarm about how rising pension costs are affecting teachers and students, but perhaps nothing presents it in starker fashion than seeing the potential cuts to school district services. Unless policymakers act, these sorts of difficult discussions are likely to play out all over the country.