Labor Pressures San Diego Schools, Teachers To Find Ways To Reduce Layoffs
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Aired 5/25/12 on KPBS News.
Even labor leaders say San Diego teachers may have to agree give up some amount of pay or benefits next year to reduce layoffs.
SAN DIEGO San Diego labor leaders and parents are calling on San Diego school leaders and the teachers union to work together to reduce teacher layoffs.
Board of education trustees finalized more than 1,500 layoffs Tuesday - most of those notices will go out to teachers.
Teachers in San Diego schools have been through years of seeing pink slips issued and then rescinded, so many expect the same to happen this year. But Lorena Gonzalez, secretary and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said Thursday that sitting back and waiting for the district’s more than $120 million deficit to work itself out won’t work this time.
“You see what’s happening up and down our state with the number of school districts that are facing the same kind of economic crisis we’re seeing here,” she said. “Things are different.”
Gonzalez was joined by parents and Central Elementary School Principal Cindy Marten at a press conference calling on the teachers union and district leaders to work together to find ways to reduce the number of teachers who lose their jobs and their healthcare when the fiscal year ends June 30.
Marten said in past years she had advocated doggedly for her pink-slipped teachers to have their layoff notices rescinded. This year members of her school community are asking why she’s kept mum.
“This time last year we already saw some possible solutions, we actually already had some people recalled by now,” she said. “There’s no recall notices even close to being on the horizon until there’s a conversation.”
That conversation would include open and honest budget numbers, according to Gonzalez, who said she believes the district issued more layoffs that will end up being necessary. She urged the district to present an estimate of how many teachers will eventually be recalled and to then speed up the recall timeline.
Some things the teachers union could agree to in order to reduce layoffs include extending furlough days into the coming year, further deferring pay increases and agreeing to change to a cheaper health insurance option. Gonzalez said teachers should be given a clear picture of what each of those items would mean in terms of staffing.
Board of Education President John Lee Evans said that information is available and has been available for some time. The board has been calling on unions to open contract negotiations since December. So far the teachers union has said it would not consider negotiations.
Gonzalez said she would not support the union opening up its current contract for negotiation, but that other changes could be made outside the contract.
Teachers Union President Bill Freeman said he has started discussing the district’s budget numbers with board members and that he plans to meet with them again to reach a consensus on what the final deficit looks like.
“We were waiting for the governor’s May revise,” he said. “Now we have it and it doesn’t look good.”
He said he plans to meet with members of the union’s board to decide what options to take to their members in the next three days.
“We want people to know we’re not sitting in the corner with our backs turned and our arms crossed,” he said.
Evans said it is coming down to the eleventh hour but that often that’s when things start to happen.