School district rescinds 112 pink slips



City News Service

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday night rescinded layoff notices to 112 probationary teachers amid a worsening fiscal crisis.

At a special meeting, the board re-voted on a proposal that failed to pass Tuesday night because board member Shelia Jackson was absent. She sided with the 3-1 majority to pull back the layoffs, with Katherine Nakamura dissenting and John De Beck abstaining.

The board previously approved more than 200 layoffs of new teachers to close a projected budget deficit of around $16 million for the next fiscal year, but information about attrition allowed the number to be whittled to 112 last month.

Meanwhile, as much as $12 million has been added to the deficit figure.

“Layoffs in and of themselves don’t save money,” said board member John Lee Evans, who introduced the proposal. “What does save money is eliminating positions.”

Because many of the positions are necessary and unlikely to be cut, the probationary teachers would be brought back anyway, Evans said.

Among those who received notices are the football coach at Patrick Henry High School and a choir instructor.

Nakamura said even if attrition does absorb the new instructors, their certifications might not match available jobs, since someone with a history credential can’t teach science. That would mean additional personnel with the proper qualifications would have to be hired, taking money away from programs, she said.

“I believe we’re painting ourselves into a corner and slipping into insolvency,” Nakamura said.

Jackson said taking back the notices would give schools and students some much-needed stability.

“How stable are we if we’re insolvent?” Nakamura asked.

“If we become insolvent, we become insolvent,” Jackson said.

The state education code requires school districts to have balanced budgets.

However, interim Chief Financial Officer Phil Stover told board members two actions taken by the state are making the balancing act harder than ever.

First, transfers of funds from the state to the SDUSD are frequently deferred, sometimes for several months, Stover said. That means the district is having to borrow more money, increasing financing costs.

Second, the state decided this week to lower attendance-based compensation to local districts.

Those two factors ballooned the deficit projection for the 2010-11 school year to $28 million, Stover said.