San Diego Unified and its teachers union agreed yesterday that savings from a golden handshake would go towards plugging the budget crisis, and not to help bring teacher salaries closer to the county median, as the union had proposed.

“We have agreed to monitor the savings, but the immediate use of savings is dedicated to the budget crisis,” said Mark Bresee, general counsel for San Diego Unified.

The exit bonus was approved for teachers and support employees such as cafeteria workers by the school board today and had already been approved for clerical workers, school police and school administrators. San Diego Unified estimates that it will garner roughly $9 million in savings in its first year, though its savings depend heavily on which employees retire, how many are replaced, and how much is spent on training their replacements.

The union wanted at least part of the expected savings to help make teacher salaries in San Diego Unified more comparable to those in neighboring school districts, as a joint task force had proposed several years ago. Salaries in the district lag behind those in nearby districts. While the school district agreed to “collectively and collaboratively monitor the savings generated” over the next five years by the plan, it did not agree to put a specific amount or proportion of the savings toward salaries.

Despite the seeming loss, Camille Zombro, president of the teachers union, said that the union won several key concessions from the school district. Employees in the “reduced workload” program, for instance, will get the same bonus as if they were working full time, and San Diego Unified teachers who are “on loan” to charter schools are eligible, she said.

But Zombro was wary of the informal pledge to “monitor” the savings to raise salaries in the future and did not view it as a guaranteed concession.

“The district has made a promise and it’s up to them whether they actually follow through with that promise,” she said. “We’re certainly not counting on that.”


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