Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | San Diego Unified will not warn a single teacher of a possible layoff this year, a move made Tuesday night that was praised by workers but set off alarm bells among critics.
It underscored a bitter rift on the board over whether its budget crisis can be weathered without layoffs. And it renewed a pledge made by new and reelected school board members to avoid cutting employees — one that opponents argue is foolish in the middle of deep uncertainty over what money the schools can expect and whether its plans will work.
“We have painted ourselves into a corner,” said school board member Katherine Nakamura, who voted to lay off teachers last year in the middle of a budget crisis. She added, “I am very worried about how we are going to pay our bills.”
Staffers yanked a proposal off the meeting agenda that would have warned more than 230 educators in their first two years with the school district that their jobs were on the line. Cutting those jobs was estimated by staffers to save more than $16 million. Even if the proposal had gone up for a vote, it seemed unlikely that it would pass, with board members Shelia Jackson, John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera banding together against the idea of cutting teachers.
“We have made a decision,” Barrera said, responding to Nakamura. “And that’s to stick by our teachers.” He noted that when the new school board started pressing for alternatives to layoffs, the school district had scrounged up millions in previously unknown savings. “We’ve done a good job of that so far. We’re going to keep doing that.”
The cuts were floated as San Diego Unified faces continued uncertainty over its budget. Nobody knows exactly how much money will pour into the budget from the federal stimulus bill, nobody is sure whether unions will agree to the cuts the school district has proposed to make ends meet, and nobody knows how many teachers and other employees will take a buyout that would allow the school district to thin its staff without layoffs.