The Sunnyside Unified School District has enlisted the help of the Pima County Democratic Party for its upcoming override election.

The party has endorsed the school district's override, which the district will ask voters to approve in an effort to stave off further staff and program cuts.

Sunnyside has lost $5.3 million in override money in the past two years after overrides failed in the 2011 and 2012 elections.

The district could lose about $8.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year if voters reject the upcoming override.

Some school board members have expressed concern about community support after the board gave embattled Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo a two-year contract extension, which outraged many district residents.

Although Sunnyside has painted a woeful picture for the district if the override doesn't pass, district and Democratic party officials don't view the party's endorsement as an act of desperation.

It is common for the organization to endorse an override or bond election for a school district if the district approaches the party, said Shasta McManus, executive director of the Pima County Democratic Party.

The group endorsed Sunnyside's 2011 override, as well as past measures for the Tucson Unified School District, McManus said.

"Our main reason is because the Republican-controlled legislature is continually slashing funding for education and school districts are left with very few options," McManus said.

The party's executive committee approved the endorsement Monday after Sunnyside board member Daniel Hernandez Jr. asked for the group's support.

Without added funding, Sunnyside could lose teachers, counselors, librarians and other positions. The district could also shut down all-day kindergarten, close the Ocotillo Early Learning Center's regular education programs and cut other programs.

Some community members vowed not to approve an override after Isquierdo's extension, citing his legal and financial problems, while accusing him of unethical behavior.

Hernandez said at this point residents wouldn't hurt Isquierdo by rejecting an override, but they would harm students and teachers.

"Now that we have to make cuts two years in a row, people are starting to feel it," he said. "We are running bone deep."

"Now that we have to make cuts two years in a row, people are starting to feel it. We are running bone deep."

Daniel Hernandez Jr., Sunnyside board member

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger