San Ysidro Teachers Strike Possible; Contract Talks Resume Tuesday
Students in the San Ysidro School District went back to school Tuesday after a mid-session break, but their teachers are on the verge of a strike.
The school district and the teachers union are at odds over pay, the length of the school year and class sizes. They resumed contract negotiations at 9 a.m. Tuesday, but both sides are preparing for a strike.
“Teachers are getting all of their personal items together,” in anticipation of a strike, said Jim Groth, a representative of the California Teachers Association.
District officials have hired extra unarmed security guards to make sure students are able to cross picket lines and get to class should a strike occur, said George Cameron, the San Ysidro School District superintendent.
Cameron said the district needs to cut teacher salaries by 6.5 percent unless the teachers accept the district's offer. The district is proposing no salary reduction, a shorter school year, five days of professional development for teachers and full-day kindergarten instead of half-day classes.
One of the district’s biggest problems is student retention, Cameron said. With full-day kindergarten, fewer parents would take their children out of the district to give them a longer school day, he said.
Once students leave the San Ysidro district, he said, they very rarely return. Each child that leaves costs the district $7,500 a year in state funds, Cameron said. He described enrollment as declining and said the district has lost 228 students to other districts this year, lowering the its student body to under 4800 students.
The district is in financial trouble and has received a "negative certification," indicating it is unable to meet its financial obligations. It is working to avoid insolvency.
The union says the district's proposal has several changes that would hurt students, including larger class sizes. Union members overwhelmingly rejected the deal, Groth said.
In a press release San Ysidro teachers union President Carol Wallace accused the district of lying about their budget.
Wallace said “We will not be bullied into believing that lie. It’s tragic. The district has shuffled and hidden millions while in the classrooms, crayons are on back order,” she said. “If the district continues to refuse to put dollars back into the classroom, to lie about the budget, and to refuse to pay San Ysidro’s dedicated teachers a fair wage, we will continue to be at odds.”