The San Diego Unified School District board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday evening to issue almost 1,700 pink slips to educators.

I couldn’t be at Tuesday’s meeting, but I was able to attend a pre-meeting rally outside the school district auditorium where dozens of teachers, parents, grandparents and kids waved banners and chanted “No more layoffs.”

During a speech to the crowd, teachers union President Bill Freeman pointed stoically at the windows of the district’s administrative headquarters, saying no teachers should be laid off until “all the lights are off in that building.”

The layoff notices are preliminary and are based on the district’s worst-case-scenario according to preliminary reports about the state budget. Last year, the district issued a similar number of pink slips but most were eventually rescinded.

The district has to issue a warning before March 15 in order to be able to eventually lay off an employee once it gets final budget numbers in the middle of the calendar year.

District officials say the layoff notices are necessary to close an estimated $80 million to $120 million hole in their budget next year. They have been calling on employee unions to make concessions in lieu of the layoffs, but so far the San Diego Education Association, which represents local teachers, has declined to negotiate on any deal that would put off promised pay raises or extend five unpaid furlough days.

The union says it’s too soon to negotiate, since nobody yet knows what the state budget will eventually look like. The district has responded by saying that all indications are that it will have to lay off unprecedented numbers of teachers without employee concessions.

If they happen, the layoffs will affect students throughout the city as class sizes spike.

Parents I spoke to outside the meeting expressed disappointment at the promise of worsening conditions for students and called on the state to raise taxes, particularly on wealthy Californians, to pay to fully fund San Diego’s schools.

Prior to tonight’s vote, Trustee Scott Barnett made a motion to amend the layoff plan to keep nurses and counselors staffed at their current level. The motion was not seconded.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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