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I called teachers union president Camille Zombro to ask how the union justified the claim in its campaign commercial that Mitz Lee “cut 300 teachers” while on the board. There were roughly 200 teacher layoffs due to the budget crisis last year. The television commercial advocates for incumbent Shelia Jackson and challenger John Lee Evans, a child psychologist who is vying for incumbent Mitz Lee’s seat and has argued against teacher layoffs.

Zombro pointed back to the San Diego Unified budget book, which shows a reduction of 348 classroom teaching jobs between 2005-2006 and 2007-2008. (The union is not using available figures through the 2008-2009 school year budget, she said, because “the current budget is a plan but not a guarantee,” especially in light of another expected round of budget cuts.)

Those reductions include jobs that are cut after someone retires and jobs that are eliminated because of dropping enrollment at schools, not just layoffs due to budget cuts, which incited anger from the teachers union earlier this year.

Zombro added in an e-mail:

The point being made in the commercials is that the District has cut over 300 teaching positions (positions that work directly with kids) while adding 86 central office administration (positions that don’t work with kids). This speaks to the current Board majority’s priorities regarding staffing.

The layoffs are a separate issue, thought they are connected in that they were unnecessary.

By pegging the reductions to “the current Board majority,” the teachers union is exonerating Jackson, a frequently outvoted board member who it has opted to support, and laying the blame for teacher reductions with Lee, who has more frequently voted with her peers. Lee has decried the ad as misleading.

EMILY ALPERT

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