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Nearly 200 more employees will be laid off by the San Diego Unified School District on top of the 1,500-plus layoffs already approved for next school year, according to union representatives.
The new cuts – which will go to the school board for approval Tuesday – include all 40-plus library technicians, 16 mental health clinicians, bus drivers and other non-teaching employees and support staff.
“I just think it’s unconscionable they can say they are keeping the cuts away from the classroom. They’re not,” said Sylvia Alvarez, president of the union that represents 1,400 office-technical and business services employees. “They want to talk about graduation rates, then they cut the whole dropout prevention program … Do you care about all the kids, or just some of the kids?”
“The libraries, that’s ridiculous. … There are a lot of our students who don’t have a computer at home who have to use the library and look for that assistance and now they won’t have that,” she added.
Alvarez’s employee group was already facing 219 cuts, including 12 out of 14 special education occupational therapy assistants and 16 out of 19 tech-support employees. She said another 82 full-time jobs will be lost.
Her frustration is shared by Lance Wren, president of the 2,600-member union that represents transportation, custodial, maintenance and food workers, among others. Wren’s group will lose another 102 employees on top of the 130 already scheduled to be cut.
“Even though they’ll tell you they are making cuts as far from the classroom as possible, that is not true,” said Wren. “I don’t care if you’re a groundskeeper. … You provide a service to the students.”
Wren said 62 out of 372 bus drivers are now expected to be cut.
Thanks to “the cuts over in maintenance, they are not going to be able to maintain the busses. That’s a safety issue. We’ve asked about a plan and we are getting no answers,” Wren said.
The district’s projected $124.4 million budget gap hasn’t changed in recent weeks, so why are additional cuts being made now?
Wren said it’s a result of concessions his union wasn’t willing to make, including a loss of 14 work days during student breaks, times when custodians usually to do a deep cleaning.
The reduction would have equaled a 5 percent pay cut.
District spokeswoman Shari Winet confirmed Friday the school board will be asked to approve an additional 190 employee layoffs on Tuesday.
“These solutions are replacement cuts — replacing several solutions proposed in February,” Winet said in a statement. “None of the solutions being proposed will raise maximum class sizes and changes are being kept as far away from the classroom as possible.”
Winet said teachers are responding well to an early retirement incentive, which “should reduce the number of layoffs, although the results of this program will not likely be known until May.”
District negotiations with the unions will continue April 27.
“This district is taking in millions upon millions of dollars that my union went out and fought for,” said Wren, referring to Prop. 55, a statewide measure passed in November that extended certain income tax raises to fund education. “I believe they went out and wasted the money, myself. It’s about mismanagement.”
Alvarez said her union also didn’t agree to a 10- to 14-day work-year reduction sought by the district.
Some employees earn “$1,200 a month. You cut 11 days a year, that’s substantial,” she said.
“They are really targeting classified. We know they can’t take teachers out of the classroom, but there are other departments,” Alvarez said. “There are six HR officers. With all of these cuts, why do they still need that many? I don’t know.”
Sabrina Hahnlein, who represents the district’s paraeducators, a group that includes noon duty workers, special needs assistants and child development center workers, said she’s not clear whether her employees will see more cuts than already planned.
All three union presidents plan to speak about the job losses at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
San Diego Unified plans to spend $1.4 billion this school year to serve 100,000 students, or $100 million more than it expects to receive in the general fund.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the number of library technicians facing layoffs. It is more than 40, not 14.