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SD Unified Board To Discuss Tentative Teacher Contract

Aired 6/22/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego school leaders are expected to approved a deal negotiated with the teachers union earlier this week.

San Diego schools trustees are expected to approve an agreement Friday that would save the jobs of 1,481 city educators.

After a week of negotiations, the district and the union agreed to five fewer schools days and to defer pay raises set to go into effect for teachers this fall. The deal would recall nearly all of the district's laid off teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians to the city’s schools for the coming year.

Parent organizer Debbie O’Toole is glad many talented teachers will keep their jobs. But she isn’t happy that if the governor’s tax initiative fails in November, the agreement would cut up to 14 days of school.

“It just seems like an easy way out – to say we’ll just shorten the school year by another two weeks, three weeks," she said. "Kids don’t have a negotiator at the table. And a month less of school – that makes a significant difference, especially for the kids who are struggling.”

School Board Trustee Scott Barnett has also criticized the deal because it "once again places too much reliance on hope; hope that the state tax increases pass," he said in a statement issued earlier this week.

The pay raise teachers were promised for the coming year was based on the thinking that by 2012 the state's economy would have recovered from the recession and revenues would be on the rise, which has not happened.

School and union leaders have been celebrating the agreement this week and calling it the beginning of more cooperative era for labor and management.

“I think one of the things that has come out of this also is a new spirit of collaboration," said school board president John Lee Evans. "Again, setting aside our differences and working together. We want to be more transparent, we’re going to sit down together regularly and let both sides look at the facts and see what can be done as we deal with these problems.”

The work the two parties have to do together has only just begun, teachers' union president Bill Freeman said.

“Our job now is to get out and educate the parents, the community members of the importance of passing the governor’s initiative. Because we cannot continue to go through this," he said. "We cannot continue to go through this. Our kids are suffering. Our educators are suffering.”

Freeman said Tuesday night that the SDEA's governing board has already voted to recommend the agreement's adoption by members. He expects member voting to take place next week.

Recalled staff will keep district class sizes low. Classes were set to grow from 24 to 31 students in kindergarten through third grade next fall.

If the agreement is approved the district will also offer a one-time $25,000 bonus to the first 300 teachers retiring this year and next. It would also create a healthcare trust fund, which would guarantee health benefits for laid off teachers in future years.

The board of education will also see projections for next's year's budget at their Friday afternoon meeting. The district is already predicting a $98 million shortfall for the 2013-14 school year if the governor's November tax initiative fails and are looking at layoffs to close the gap.

The school board is also scheduled today to take up the budget for the next academic year, which had a shortfall of around $120 million until the deal with teachers was reached.

Total planned spending by the district next year will be $1.8 billion, compared to about $2 billion this year. The unrestricted general fund budget is set to be around $623.1 million, compared to $726.2 million this year.

Final approval is not expected at today's meeting because staff needs time to work the financial implications of the deal with teachers into the spending plan.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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