The big deal struck Tuesday between the San Diego Unified School District and the teachers union aims to rescind all of the proposed 1,372 laid off teachers and bring back about half of the nurses and counselors laid off earlier this year.

At the core of the agreement are two key concessions from teachers: They will put off promised pay raises and will continue to work five unpaid furlough days for the next two years. Teachers also agreed to take 14 more unpaid days off if two tax measures fail to pass in November’s ballot.

Here are a few key takeaways from the six-page deal, which I just had a chance to scour. I’ll take them in turn:

1. The district and union plan to talk much more about the budget.

This is a biggie.

The very last paragraph of the tentative agreement says the school district and the San Diego Education Association, the union that represents teachers, will establish a joint committee, made up of four representatives each, to meet periodically to discuss the budget.

That marks a big shift for a union that for the last few years has refused to hold formal, regular meetings with the district.

And it marks the culmination of the union’s softening stance toward the district. It began a few months ago with the ouster of Executive Director Craig Leedham and the voting out of hard-line vice president Camille Zombro.

School board president John Lee Evans said he’s been advocating for greater communication between the two sides for more than a year now. He said during the negotiations that resulted in this agreement, both sides saw the value of talking and both agreed on most key points of discussion.

“As a psychologist, I was very impressed by both sides,” Evans said. “Both sides were talking and listening, and weren’t just talking at each other.”

The decision to meet on a regular basis also mirrors the tactics of the county’s second-largest school district, Poway Unified, which my colleague Andrew Donohue profiled in this piece.

Poway, where union and district officials meet several times a year to discuss the budget, didn’t lay off a single teacher this year, despite facing state cuts just like San Diego Unified.

2. The deal’s not done yet.

To reiterate a point I probably didn’t make clearly enough in Tuesday’s post, the tentative agreement won’t become final unless and until it has been voted on and approved by the union and the school board.

The board will hold a special public meeting on Friday at 4 p.m. to discuss the deal. The union will then hold a vote over three days, tentatively scheduled for June 24-26. A majority of educators who vote must approve the deal for it to become final.

If the union approves the deal, the school board will then vote next Thursday on whether to ratify it.

Evans said he thinks both the teachers and the board will give their seal of approval to the deal.

“I’m completely confident that the school board will back this agreement and I’m very hopeful as far as the teachers. Their board overwhelmingly approved it,” Evans said.

3. If the state sends San Diego more money, teachers get paid more.

The school district still doesn’t know exactly how much money it will get from the state next year. So far, all it has are predictions. It’s possible that the per-student funding it receives could increase later this year.

If it gets more than it’s expecting, the tentative agreement spells out precisely how any extra money will be divvied up. The basics: First, teachers get a 2-percent salary bump, then furlough days are replaced, then salaries will be increased across the board.

Bear in mind that this is very unlikely to happen at this point. There’s no sign that the state is going to increase education funding any time soon.

4. If the district finds or gets more money from anywhere else, furlough days are rolled back.

Much of the debate over union concessions has focused on whether the district really has no other option than to lay teachers off to balance its budget. In past years, the district has “found” pots of money in its budget that it has been able to use at the last minute to rescind hundreds of threatened layoffs.

This year, the union had its own experts scrub the budget. They didn’t come up with much, and the union obviously felt obliged to make a deal to save teachers’ jobs.

The tentative agreement contains an interesting clause: If the district does “find” money in its budget, that extra money will go to roll back some of the furlough days. That, in turn, will increase the amount teachers get paid.

The same applies if the district receives more money in any other way than the standard per-student state funding. If, for example, the federal government launches a stimulus package to send money to schools, that extra revenue will be spent to roll back furlough days.

5. Only the first 300 teachers to retire get $25,000

In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned the district’s offer to veteran teachers: Those with more than 25 years of experience who are older than 55 have the option to retire now and receive a one-time lump sum payment of $25,000.

That deal only applies for the first 300 teachers who step forward.

The district also hopes that this golden parachute could result in a net savings for its budget. It may cost less to pay older, more expensive teachers $25,000 to retire than it would to keep those teachers on for another year. If that happens, the district will use any savings to roll back some of the furlough days.

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

Like VOSD on Facebook.

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

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.