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School board member Mitz Lee complained today that her opponent, John Lee Evans, is misleading the public with his candidate’s statement, which claims that the school board fired 900 teachers, at a forum sponsored by the Catfish Club. Teacher firings have become a dominant issue in the race between Evans and Lee, widely considered the most competitive race for the school board this year.

The question is more complicated than it might seem. To balance its budget, the San Diego Unified board voted to notify 900 teachers of potential layoffs in March.

That number fell in May when Superintendent Terry Grier asked to rescind notices for counselors, high school English teachers and other employees, and again the same month after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a revised budget that gave the school district more money. Roughly 200 teachers were ultimately cut in June, but more than 100 were rehired on temporary contracts earlier this school year.

Evans’ statement reads, “The Board fired 900 teachers while preserving administrators’ jobs.” Lee said she has formally complained to the county registrar about the statement.

“We should set a good example to kids to be honest and forthright,” Lee said. “You could have said the board noticed 900 teachers. Why would you choose to lie to the voters?”

Evans said the notices were firings, and rescinding them only shows that they were real actions — not just warnings. He does not plan to change the wording and maintains that it is accurate.

“You can’t rescind something that never happened,” he said. “If it’s just a mild warning letter you don’t rescind it. … Teachers I talked to did not take it as a mild notification.”

EMILY ALPERT

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