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The San Diego Unified School District is likely to face some tough bargaining with its labor unions as it begins to craft its annual budget for next year. In addition to the call by administrators to start their own union, several other labor groups have indicated that they will ask the district to renegotiate existing contracts.

In particular, the San Diego Education Association, the teachers’ union, has said that it will reopen the contract the union agreed to just last year to ask for a raise. The union says it has new data showing that the district ranks 35th in the county — out of a total of 38 school systems — and that a San Diego teacher makes $80,000 less over the course of his or her career with the district than the average teacher in San Diego County.

If something isn’t done, the union says, San Diego schools will face the same retention and recruitment crisis currently seen by the San Diego Police Department.

The district’s Director of Labor Relations Willy Surbrook did not dispute the union’s data, though he says they are misleading because they do not take into account other non-salary benefits, which are far more generous in San Diego Unified than in neighboring districts. For example, San Diego Unified does not ask its teachers to pay a portion of the cost of their health care benefits.

“It’s tough to really drive that nail in, and it’s so varying,” Surbrook said, explaining that it’s hard to compare overall compensation across school systems. “In this school district, if you work four hours or more per day, you get a full medical benefit package not only for you, but also your entire family.”

The teachers’ union points at another figure: The portion of the district budget spent on teacher salaries has dropped over the past five years, meaning the school board has shifted its priorities elsewhere, the union said. Surbrook said the district has not yet had a chance to verify those numbers.


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