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Hundreds of teachers, counselors, nurses and other school workers packed the San Diego Unified school board meeting last night to protest planned cuts that would slash 11 percent of the school district workforce, including more than 700 educators who teach everything from elementary school to music.

Over and over, upset teachers and counselors pointed out that San Diego Unified has repeatedly warned employees that they would be laid off, then canceled the layoffs later. Camille Zombro, vice president of the teachers union, argued that it shows they were never needed in the first place.

The Union-Tribune gave a good rundown of the numbers in past years:

More than 110 teachers received layoff notices last March. Those notices were rescinded three months later and trustees opted for other cuts, including a five-day reduction of the 2010-2011 school year and furlough days. … In 2008, the district tentatively cut more than 900 teaching jobs and later restored nearly all of them when last-minute state funding came through.

The school board did not take any action last night. But it was clear it heard the complaints about the layoff scares. School board member Kevin Beiser, who works as a teacher in the Sweetwater district, called it “the pink slip yoyo.” Scott Barnett compared it to “Lucy and the football” in the Peanuts comics.

Why does this happen? Check out this San Diego Explained video with NBC San Diego, where we explain the “pink slip yoyo.” You can also read up on the bigger budget uncertainty that makes it hard for San Diego Unified leaders to know whether to bank on their numbers at all.

The big question now is whether the San Diego Unified school board will hold its nose and send out layoff warnings before March 15 — the warnings are commonly called pink slips — or hold off .

Doing so could spare employees the agony of waiting for layoffs that never come. But it could also paint the district into a corner if tax extensions fail and mass layoffs are needed. A quirk in the law could let San Diego Unified warn teachers of layoffs as late as August, but financial experts caution against it.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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