Stockton Unified still has nearly 150 positions funded by one-time federal COVID-19 relief dollars that will soon require a new funding source.
The positions affect a majority of the district’s unions and will cost about $15.5 million for the current school year, SUSD staff told the governing board last month.
The district’s governing board will hold a study session Tuesday afternoon to discuss the three rounds of Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Act money, known as ESSER funds, SUSD has received since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and how the money has been directed. At the session, trustees will consider what to do about the ongoing district positions that have been funded using these allocations.
District staff told trustees last month that the district is obligated to fund all the positions through at least the 2023-2024 school year, using the third round of ESSER funding to do so before having to switch over to a different funding source once ESSER funds expire.
“We are responsible for those … positions until the end of this upcoming school year,” Susana Ramirez, SUSD assistant superintendent of educational services, told trustees in June. “And then at that time, the board will need to make some decisions about what will happen with those positions or how they will be funded.”
All ESSER funds must be spent by the end of September 2024.
SUSD has been both criticized and warned by the San Joaquin County Office of Education and the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury about the potential budgeting hazards that come with funding ongoing district expenses with one-time funding.
District leadership has been working over the last eight months to right Stockton Unified’s financial ship. SUSD has faced myriad issues in the last few years, including two scathing Civil Grand Jury reports, one of which gave the district “A failing Grade in Public Trust,” and risk of potential insolvency due to budget mismanagement, five interim and permanent superintendents, infighting among governing board trustees, and a state audit investigation that found evidence of illegal activity in the district’s financial dealings.
But the district governing board has become more compliant and willing to work with outside oversight organizations since December, likely brought on by the shift in board politics following last year’s election.
Stockton Unified has about $75 million in round three ESSER funding that still needs to be earmarked for district needs. District staff told trustees in June that funding for the 148 positions would need to come out of that money for this school year.
Some of the positions are currently vacant, though Ramirez says the district is required by its union contracts to fill them.
“Not that I’m suggesting that they should have been, but because they didn’t go through the elimination process, we are committed to hiring into those vacant positions,” Ramirez said.
The Stockton Unified governing board will meet before its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at 3 p.m. for its ESSER funding study session in the district’s board room near the downtown waterfront on South Lincoln Street.