San Diego Teachers Want Smaller Classes, More Money

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The most recent board meeting for San Diego Unified school district was attended by hundreds of parents and educators demanding smaller class sizes, higher teacher pay and greater school resources.

The group brought a petition the length of a football field with them to give to board members.  Teachers said that almost 5,000 community members were in support of their “Fight for 5″ contract proposal that outlined their demands.  Their current contract comes to an end with this school year.

The show of support comes during a months-long teacher contract negotiation in the district.

Last year the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) asked for a raise of 10.25% over the next two years.  The union argued that in order to attract the best teachers, the district must be willing to pay them a comparable salary to what teachers in other nearby districts receive.

In addition, they mentioned the pay raises of central office staff, some of which reached 20%, and the creation of new, high-paying positions at the same time that teacher salaries saw a decline.

San Diego Unified officials offered a raise of 1.4% of the same two year time span.

Each raise would be on top of the step raises already in place that are given automatically, dependent on time served.

Although the district does offer a lower rate of pay for its teachers than surrounding districts, they have a more generous benefits package.

In addition, the union would like to see teachers paid more for attending professional development sessions as well as participation in district committees.

The demonstration happened just one day after Superintendent Cindy Marten and board President Kevin Beiser each gave speeches at the annual state of the district ceremony, emphasizing the importance of setting education policies with community collaboration.

In his speech, Beiser mentioned a variety of district accomplishments, including lowering class sizes from 27:1 to 25.5:1, balancing the budget and lowering the dropout rate.  The district has the lowest dropout rate in the state.

Beiser, who teaches in the South Bay, said he supports the proposals presented at the meeting.

“Where we have to have conversations around is: to what extent are we able to find the funding from Sacramento in order to make those things a reality for our kids?” Beiser told CBS News 8, later adding, “Unfortunately, the state has still not restored funding from the most recent recession yet .”

However, the state recently saw the passage of Proposition 30, which raised taxes in order to increase funding for California schools.

“Its very hard to believe that the district doesn’t have the money to lower class sizes when they have the money to give the central office administrators double-digit raises,” said SDEA president Lindsay Burningham.

The current teacher contract will expire on June 30, 2015.