Originally published June 8, 2012 at 12:14 p.m., updated June 8, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.
SAN DIEGO San Diego Unified trustees began calling on school employee unions to negotiate concessions with the district to prevent massive layoffs back in December. Seven months later, the district's teachers union has agreed to consider some concessions in order to avert at least some of the 1,534 teacher layoffs that are set to go into effect June 30.
SDEA Board of Directors Letter
In a letter to members, San Diego Education Association President Bill Freeman wrote that the union's board "has authorized limited discussions with the district in an effort to stop layoffs."
Concessions that district leaders have proposed include continuing five furlough days that were set to be restored next fall, foregoing scheduled pay raises and limiting employee healthcare options.
Freeman's letter said that discussions will only begin once the district agrees "to clear ground rules that limit the scope" of those discussions. Changes to healthcare won't be on the table, according to the letter.
District spokesman Bernie Rhinerson outlined the savings each concession would provide in an interview following labor leader Lorena Gonzalez's call last month for greater budget transparency from the district.
According to Rhinerson, extending furlough days would save the district $13.2 million, deferring raises $14.9 million and healthcare-option changes $3.75 million. However, the district has to cut a $122 million budget gap for the fall. Teacher and other staff layoffs account for more than $90 million of those reductions, according to a staff presentation to the board early this year. More than 1,000 non-teaching school staff members are also facing layoff at the end of the year.
San Diego Unified has issued notices of possible layoff to teachers every March for the last five years. Last year was the first year that not all of those notices were rescinded or recalled by the start of the next school year.
But, in 2011, the district issued more than 1,300 notices of possible layoff in March, and by October just over 220 teachers were not rehired. Many of the layoff recalls were made possible by additional money for schools added to the state budget at the last minute. A similar development is unlikely this year with the state's own budget shortfall growing this spring.
THat history of recalling layoff notices was part of Freeman's explanation for refusing to negotiate until now. He repeatedly cited a history of unreliable budget numbers from the district, Last week budget analysts from the California Teachers Association met with district leaders to review budget numbers at the SDEA's request.
Following that analysis SDEA's board members decided negotiations were "the right way to proceed," Freeman said, according to a written statement released by the union Friday. "Unlike past years, the economic challenges facing the district and the state have not improved.”