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The San Diego Unified teachers union is proposing to take three furlough days annually to help offset a school district deficit that has been estimated as deep as $93 million, according to a summary of the proposal provided today to voiceofsandiego.org.

The idea is a counterproposal to the school district, which had asked the union to weigh a salary cut of up to 8 percent, angering teachers who said their pay was already low.

The plan, presented to the school district this morning, proposes taking three furloughs days annually for two years in exchange for more sick leave days, less frequent evaluations for senior teachers with good records and stricter rules to rein in class sizes. Teachers would also be able to file formal grievances against the school district if they get letters of reprimand or suspensions, giving them another, more serious way to challenge issues that could mar their records.

The cuts would be restored if San Diego Unified got added funding. “We are doing our part and SDUSD must do theirs by embracing fiscal responsibility, and accepting our fair and reasonable offer so that we can all get back to the business of teaching and learning,” a flyer about the proposal states.

I did some quick back-of-the-envelope math to see how this might pencil out: San Diego Unified earlier estimated that a four-day furlough for teachers would save $12 million, so three days would save about $9 million annually. That looks like less than the salary cut might have saved: Cutting salaries for all employees (not just teachers) was estimated to save more than $60 million for an 8 percent cut, according to school district estimates made in November.

I’m talking with union President Camille Zombro soon to get the union’s budget estimates and perspectives on the plan. Check back soon for updates and more numbers as I calculate them.

Update: The union is also proposing that teachers would get salary increases in 2012 and 2013 to make up the lost income, adding 1.5 percent, then another 1.5 percent and then an additional 3 percent to their pay.

Second update: The furloughs equal a 1.6 percent pay cut, Zombro said. She estimated that it would save at least $10 million annually and declined to compare it to the possible savings of an 8 percent cut, saying the idea was “indefensible.”

— EMILY ALPERT

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