Every one of the 1,372 teachers laid off earlier this year by the San Diego Unified School District will be back at school by Sept. 1, under a two-year deal agreed to by the district and the teachers union today.

Negotiators for the San Diego Education Association, the local teachers union, agreed to put off a series of pay raises promised by the district two years ago, and also agreed to extend five unpaid furlough days for an additional two years.

Under the proposed plan, which must be still be ratified by a majority of union members, the school year could also shorten by two weeks next year if two new state tax measures fail in November’s general election.

The district is offering a one-time deal for San Diego Unified’s most experienced teachers: educators with more than 25 years of experience who are older than 55 will be offered a one-time payment of $25,000 if they choose to retire this year.

Crucially, unlike the district’s last deal with SDEA in 2010, today’s tentative agreement doesn’t offer instant pay raises in exchange for the two years of concessions from teachers. Rather, teachers will see their pay increase only if the state raises the amount of funding sent to San Diego.

If the state ups its funding for the district next year, for example, teachers could see some or all of the furlough days go away, resulting in a pay increase.

“The entire community of San Diego owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the teachers, counselors and nurses who will go into a fourth year making sacrifices for the sake of our kids,” said school board trustee Richard Barrera, who helped broker the deal. “The entire community needs to recognize the sacrifices those educators have made.”

The district laid off more than 1,500 educators last month in order to close a projected budget deficit of as much as $120 million next year and $100 million the year after. Much of that deficit came from the district’s promise to pay teachers raises in exchange for them taking five unpaid furlough days for each of the last two years.

By putting those raises off two years and extending the furlough days, the district can save enough to rescind about one-third of the layoffs. If the taxes pass in November, that would rescind an additional third. Most of the remaining 500 or so layoffs will be rescinded as teachers agree to take leaves of absence or retire.

But, as long as the deal is approved, all of the laid-off teachers will be back in a classroom by Sept. 1, and San Diego Unified will continue to enjoy relatively low class sizes.

The SDEA announced the deal on its website this afternoon.

“The agreement highlights the importance of passing the Governor’s November initiative and the real challenges our schools and public education in California will face should it fail,” said a union statement posted online. “Ultimately this [tentative agreement] protects our contract and our school communities in a time when economic shortages threaten public education throughout the state.”

I’m flying back from a conference on the East Coast today but I’ll have more details on this deal tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are two key pieces of background for you to understand the history behind today’s deal.

1. Read our in-depth examination of the district’s 2010 labor deal with teachers that we dubbed “The Ticking Time Bomb in San Diego School Finances.”

2. Watch our video explainer below about that 2010 gamble, which was based on rosy estimates for state finances.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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

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