I just got off the phone with teachers union president Camille Zombro, who decried the budget that San Diego Unified is sending to the county superintendent as presenting a “false choice” between unnecessary cuts.

The budget includes a Plan A that relies heavily on concessions from employee unions, such as furloughs and bigger classes, and a Plan B that is loaded with politically unpopular cuts such as ending arts programs and high school athletics. The message from the administration is that if Plan A cannot be negotiated with unions it would resort to Plan B.

“The district is trying to put us in a tough position,” Zombro said, adding, “The characterization that we have to choose between our families and our students — it’s immoral and appalling.”

She said that the union does not trust the district’s numbers in a budget that seems to change constantly and is far from final. And while San Diego Unified has so far avoided laying off teachers, she was unimpressed with its proposed cuts and declined to say which would be acceptable.

“That’s asking us which finger you want to cut off,” Zombro said, noting that the school district is still retaining its top administrators. “It’s an unacceptable question.”

“We have reasonable people on the board and we have a very unreasonable, ideological superintendent who is driving this,” Zombro said, referring to Superintendent Terry Grier, who has frequently clashed with the union. “He is a divisive, inciting presence and this sort of thing is typical of him. That is not to say that we’re absolving the school board of their responsibility. But this is what you get when you continue to have someone like Terry Grier in power.”

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