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Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 | The most important question is not whether San Diego Unified school board member John de Beck will mend political fences with the teachers union. The issue is whether the school board as presently constituted has the will to make hard choices and adapt to this terrible economic downturn while focusing on what should be its essential mission — making adequate yearly progress in educating 35,000 students.

Local and state teachers unions, San Diego Education Association and California Teachers Association respectively, spent about $300,000 recently to elect newcomers John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera and re-elect Shelia Jackson to the Board of Education. With moral support from the local Labor Council, the teachers union is now calling the shots through its three indebted trustees on questions like no teacher layoffs and using Prop S bond money to hire union-only labor on school rebuilding jobs.

These goals would not be controversial in ordinary times, but teachers’ salaries account for 80 percent of the school district’s $1 billion budget and the union-only labor provision was legislated only after the bond issue passed public approval. The truth is you can’t get blood from a stone. Longtime trustee, former teacher and true-blue unionist John de Beck knows this and votes his conscience and his intelligence as he tries to salvage what may in fact be a sinking ship. The troika votes its self interest and political future. The losers are all of us, especially families with children in our public schools.

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