Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Message from the Board of Education President

Dear Superintendent and San Diego Unified Employees,

As President of the Board of Education, I want you to know that the board appreciates your dedication and hard work in the midst of yet another budget crisis.

In return, you deserve to know what the school board is thinking. Your job is to teach and help children in and around the classroom. The board has two mandates: to protect education and to balance the budget. This is a difficult balancing act.

We have a school district budget. Each of us has a family budget. At the same time we all care about the education of our children.

The State of California has let us down for several years with continuous cuts to public education. As a result, last spring we issued many layoff notices. Fortunately, we were able to recall a few hundred teachers in the summer when the state gave us more money to maintain K-3 class size, but only after the budget was passed. That change is not going to happen this year. The reality is that hundreds of last year’s laid off employees were never called back.

This year is different. When I went to Sacramento recently, no one there was optimistic about the state coming up with more money. The governor’s tax proposal ballot measure does not go before the voters until November. That’s too late for next school year. This year we also tried to avoid the tumultuous March 15 layoff notice deadline for certificated employees as required by law. Unfortunately, without union support we cannot get emergency legislation passed to postpone the layoff notice deadline to June 15.

On a district level the Finance Department numbers are much more accurate than they were a few years ago. The Human Resources Department has made corrections so that the layoff errors made last year are not repeated. The dollars and layoff numbers are real. Contrary to what you may have read or heard, there is no extra money from redevelopment or transportation. If there is any doubt about the numbers, we have a standing invitation to all of our unions to send over their best auditors to go through our books.

We would not be preparing to sell off major property for a year of school funding if we were not in a very serious situation. This board has taken some risks to protect education but we will not be reckless or put ourselves in a situation where we cannot meet payroll. Everyone on the board detests the cuts we are making but we cannot simply vote away the fact that we do not have enough money to keep operating at the same level.

As a psychologist, I know that in a crisis our natural reaction is denial. First we deny the budget crisis and then we get angry. And then we look for solutions.

The district’s police officers have worked with us to find a solution to keep schools safe and to protect their jobs. They have agreed to the status quo in terms of salary (no raises) and the continuation of the five furlough days. They accepted adjustments to the health insurance program, which continues to be free for many of their members and families. They also agreed to a 6 percent salary rollback if the governor’s ballot measure fails in November. If it passes, there is no salary rollback. In exchange, all of them will be on the job next year.

The Superintendent and the school board have indicated that we will make these same concessions. We have asked all of our unions to sit down to negotiate concessions as soon as possible to avoid massive layoffs that will harm children in the classroom. The San Diego City Schools Police Officers Association has set an excellent example of how management and labor can work together for the common good of San Diego children.

We need to stick together to get through this Great Recession. I continue to have faith that employees will do the right thing.

Thanks again for all that you do for our students, our schools and our community.
John Lee Evans
John Lee Evans
President, Board of Education