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San Diego Unified Teachers Use 'Work To Rule' In Push For Higher Wages, Lower Class Sizes

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

No after-school meetings. No late nights grading papers. San Diego Unified teachers are participating in a work-to-rule action Tuesday to pressure the district during union contract negotiations. That means they’ll follow their work rules to a “T” but do nothing more.

“Our educators aren’t feeling respected by the district currently with our bargaining proposals on the table,” said San Diego Education Association president Lindsay Burningham.

“This is a way to show the district what our schools actually look like when educators don’t volunteer their time and give up all the extra time that they do.”


With a contract renewal nine months overdue, the union and the district have been bargaining for about a year. Burningham said the sticking points are raises, lower class sizes and smaller caseloads for special education staff.

RELATED: ‘We Have Reached A Deal’: West Virginia Teacher Strike Set To End With Pay Raise

The teachers are calling for a 2 percent raise that’s retroactive to the start of this school year and a 2.5 percent increase next year.

In early February, the district had proposed no raises for three years, according to the union.

Last year it had to cut $124 million from its budget due to rising pension costs and declining enrollment. It laid off 170 teachers. This year, the district anticipates laying off fewer than 20 certificated staff as it looks to trim $34 million from its budget.


RELATED: San Diego Unified To Close Four Child Development Centers In June

The union also wants to cap class sizes at 27 students in transitional kindergarten through third grade and at 34 in fourth through sixth grade. It also wants to increase nurses and counselors, and decrease caseloads for special education staff.

Special education has put a strain on district budgets across the country as federal funding fails to keep up with the number of children eligible for special education services.

The district sent the following statement: “We are working diligently with our partners at the San Diego Education Association to reach a new contract. We remain confident that together we can achieve an agreement that supports the success of all our students.”

Teachers are expected to rally at Tuesday’s board meeting. They head back to the bargaining table March 22.

If a deal cannot be reached, the parties must declare an impasse and meet with mediators before teachers could consider a strike.

San Diego Unified Teachers To 'Work To Rule' To Push For Higher Wages, Lower Class Sizes
They’re still a ways off from striking like their colleagues in West Virginia, but San Diego Unified teachers are taking a step back from work to pressure the district in contract negotiations.