San Diego Unified is floating several ideas on how to place the 185 elementary teachers who now do not have teaching jobs because of class size increases and other cuts.

There are jobs available in middle schools, but the displaced educators are elementary school teachers. The mismatch is the result of San Diego Unified relying on the combination of a golden handshake, which reduced the number of teachers, and program cuts, which reduced the number of jobs, to slash its budget. The problem is that the remaining jobs and the remaining teachers do not perfectly line up. Most teachers have a right to a job unless they are warned of a layoff, which San Diego Unified has not done.

Superintendent Terry Grier said the school district has already negotiated one way to take on the problem: an agreement with the teachers union to pay for the elementary teachers to get masters’ degrees in special education. The deal is meant to incentivize the unplaced teachers to fill 40 vacancies the district has for teaching students with disabilities.

Grier described two other possible strategies in a board meeting this morning:

  • Using stimulus money meant to spur innovative and creative programs to lower class sizes in 14 schools to 15 students per teacher, which could provide jobs for 84 of the teachers. The program was created by Grier last year as a pilot to test the effects of reducing class size and was slated to be cut to save money. Grier said the program could be continued at the 14 poorest schools among the 30 that originally had the program, and could arguably be considered an innovative use of the stimulus. Reducing the class sizes in the selected schools was derided as an “experiment” last year by the teachers union, which charged that the plan should have been negotiated with them and was a waste.
  • Finding elementary teachers who are qualified to teach middle school and either placing them in middle schools involuntarily or offering them an incentive — such as paying for their credentials or masters’ degrees — to become middle school teachers and fill the available jobs.

School board member Katherine Nakamura, who believes the school district should have used layoffs to cut down its staffing, was appalled at the idea of shelling out money on getting teachers into the right jobs while programs were being cut.

“We’re going to put teachers that don’t want to be there into middle schools?” she asked, growing teary. “And we’re going to pay to get them masters’ degrees while we’re cutting school supplies? This is a prudent use of taxpayers’ money?”

I’m still trying to get a copy of the actual agreement on special education degrees and its costs. Meanwhile, teachers are stressing out. I got an e-mail last night from one of these displaced teachers. She wrote, “Do I pack? Do I bring my stuff home? Do I wait for a month? I’ve taught too long to have to go through this.”


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