Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | The labor interest vs. business interest controversy at San Diego Unified is bogus. Groups are manufacturing this issue to explain Superintendent Grier’s acceptance of a better offer in Houston.

Any Chamber of Commerce or taxpayer association type should be ecstatic that the Board (with the Superintendent’s collaboration) cut $30 million from the central office budget. We eliminated hundreds of bureaucratic positions.

We also reduced personnel costs by offering early retirement to hundreds of teachers. This made business sense, because it resulted in greater financial savings than layoffs and it kept our young, enthusiastic teachers on board.

On the labor side, cooperation with a classified union resulted in the workers themselves coming up with nearly a million dollars in savings in the warehouse. This was supported by both the Board and the Superintendent. While the teachers (and parents and students) were happy that there were not massive layoffs, five hundred temporary teachers were not renewed. But our teachers have worked faithfully and with good results (see the recent test scores) this year in spite of the fact that we have not even been able to come to agreement on a contract.

Speaking of business and labor, we operate in a free market. Houston offered Dr. Grier about $400,000 in comparison to his current salary of $269,000. Many of us might be tempted by such an offer. (The salary for Board members is $18,000.) In San Diego it would be fiscally irresponsible to pay the Superintendent a higher salary in the middle of a budget crisis and when our own teachers’ wages were below the median before the crisis.

The Board and the Superintendent have been most of all kid-friendly by shifting more money to the school sites and classrooms and away from bureaucratic expenses. Having the teachers and the right principals in place will make our 2009-2010 student results even better than they were last year.

John Lee Evans is a San Diego Unified Trustee for District A.

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