San Diego Teachers Picket Layoff Hearings


Last month the San Diego Unified School District issued tentative layoff notices to 1,666 teachers in a bid to offset the $122 million deficit in next year's budget. The layoffs include 20% of the elementary teaching staff.

Pink slips are issued based on seniority, subject credentials and training certificates, but usually many of them are rescinded.

"When I got my pink slip I didn't really worry since I've been with the district so long — twelve years," said Kimberly Bazon, a Sherman Elementary School teacher who brought her two-month-old son to the proceedings. "But now that we've made it to hearings and not one pink slip has been rescinded, I'm starting to get a little worried."

The delay in overturning some pink slips may be down to negotiating tactics. The district wants union concessions on a pay freeze and changes to health care, which they say will save jobs. The union counter that the district is overestimating the budget crisis and failing to account for savings from retirement and resignations.

Hearings are going on at Kearney High and nearly 1,100 of the affected teachers have requested a hearing to fight the layoff. Hundreds of teachers are also picketing the hearings in protest. Regulations allow the teachers three days off to attend the hearings and mean a massive influx of substitute teachers to cover these absences, at a time when many schools are set to begin administering state standardized tests. This is neither good for the affected students, nor the budget that the two sides are squabbling over

Some teachers attended the hearings to protest the state's system for financing schools, one that calls for districts to adopt budgets months before they know how much money the state will give them. Others wanted to show the district how tough it would be to operate schools without 1,600-plus employees next year.

"It will be impossible for schools to open in September," said Stefanie Gaines, who teaches art and French at Mira Mesa High School. "I have 38 students in a class today, imagine what it's going to look like with 1,600 fewer educators."

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