A San Diego school board member is calling on the district's employees to give up future raises to help close escalating budget gaps.
Leaders of the teachers union, whose members are due for the bulk of the pay hikes, reject the idea as political grandstanding.
With several hundred possible layoffs looming among San Diego Unified's 15,000 employees, city schools trustee Scott Barnett says some concessions by labor will help trigger a job-saving process.
"I believe the general public doesn't even know — and will be shocked to learn — that in this climate, we're giving raises as we're laying off employees," Barnett told reporters at a Thursday news conference outside SDUSD headquarters. "So part of the effort is to educate the public and let them know what the facts are."
Barnett says the raises, ratified in March 2010, will cost the district nearly $130 million over the next three fiscal years.
In that span, the city schools are projecting a total budget shortfall of more than $200 million.
"Finally, we're getting to the point — sad as it is — that we're running out of tricks," Barnett said. "We're running out of rabbits to pull out of our hat to fix the budget."
Members of the San Diego Education Association, which represents 6,700 teachers, are due for raises of 2 and 3 percent and so-called "step" increases.
They're taking five unpaid annual furlough days and paying higher healthcare premiums.
Union leaders say Barnett is trying to "panic" the community over a $50 million current shortfall that'll be erased by earmarks from projected gains in state revenue.
"You would think that we would learn," SDEA President Bill Freeman said at a news conference in response to Barnett's remarks. "But every year, we go through this. This year, it's worse because we have an individual who wants to politically grandstand to further his political career."
Said SDEA member Michelle Sanchez, who teaches English and history at Garfield High School: "I've received a pink slip three times in the last four years, and every year we've watched as these layoffs have proven unnecessary time and time again. This year is no different. Already, my notice is one of hundreds that have been rescinded."
For his part, Barnett says he's not putting cost-cutting on employees alone; he's looking at possible school closures and reductions in bus routes.
"I'm open to anything," he said.
Bargaining groups that represent administrators and school police officers say they're willing to have their members consider further meetings with district officials on budget solutions.
So far, classified employee groups have not responded.