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The San Diego Unified school board, populated with two new members, plans to weigh whether to cancel all of the roughly 200 teacher layoffs made last summer during a budget crisis, even as another crisis looms ahead for the district.

Many of those laid-off teachers were subsequently rehired, but on temporary contracts that expire after a year, and others have already taken new jobs. The potential financial impact of the plan is still being determined by human resources staffers.

School board member Shelia Jackson, who plans to propose the action, said it would effectively restore the seniority of the rehired teachers to the level they would have had if layoffs had not happened. Many were probationary teachers who work several years before gaining the employment rights of ordinary teachers — whose contracts are automatically renewed from year to year. Newly elected board member Richard Barrera backs the idea.

“What they have essentially done is strip away rights from teachers who, had they not been recalled, would be on permanent contracts. It took away their ability to build seniority and all the rights they would have had,” Barrera said.

Barrera added that it could set a bad precedent. “In order to take away rights from teachers, the district could simply have a practice every year where it lays off teachers knowing full well that it is going to rehire them.”

School board member John de Beck said he would oppose the motion if it staffers determine that it would have a financial cost. San Diego Unified is already bracing for a roughly $40 million shortfall due to midyear budget cuts planned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It’s the first test of the new board and whether or not they are going to go along with it,” de Beck said, referring to newly elected board members Barrera and John Lee Evans, both of whom were backed by labor unions during their campaigns. “But if it is going to cost us money it is ridiculous to put anything on the budget like that now.”

Check back for updates soon: I’ve called the human resources department to ask how the seniority issue could shake out, if this plan passes, and how many teachers could be actually rehired.

EMILY ALPERT

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