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Teacher Pay Becomes Election Issue In San Diego Unified

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San Diego voters will soon decide who should represent public schools in the northeastern part of the city.

— San Diego voters will soon decide who should represent public schools in the northeastern part of the city.

Special Feature KPBS ELECTION COVERAGE

A teacher, a businessman, and an attorney are running for that seat on the San Diego Unified Board of Education. At issue is whether school workers' pay should be cut next year.

The San Diego Unified School Board asked teachers to take ten furlough days over the next ten years to deal with massive state budget shortfalls. In exchange, trustees promised to raise teachers pay at the end of those two years.

But critics say the pay raises combined with likely state-budget cuts will consume the district's entire budget.

Incumbent Katherine Nakamura, running as a write-in candidate, says it's time to rethink employee compensation.

“It is likely we are going to have to sit-down at the table and take another look at what our agreement is and open up the contract,” she said.

Nakamura has voted for teacher layoffs in the past. That's why the powerful teachers union is backing Kevin Beiser, a math teacher in the South Bay. Beiser says asking teachers to take unpaid furlough days is more than enough.

“Instead of holding the line they said, 'You know what? We're going to step up to the plate and we're going to do what's right so we're going to maintain class sizes.'” he said.

But businessman Steven Rosen says it's time the school board puts more pressure on labor unions.

“It is not just the teachers union, it is the labor union across the board. We're not cutting compensation and benefits. We’re cutting kids’ programs.” Rosen said.

The school board is under scrutiny for its relationship with labor unions. Some critics want to expand the five-member board to prevent special interest influence.

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