District to Teachers: Take a Pay Cut

Sweetwater Union High School District teachers take contract fight to school board.

Teachers in the Sweetwater Union High School District are in an uproar about pending layoffs and salary cuts, and they took their case to the school board Monday evening. 

The teachers' collective bargaining agreement ended last June and they're trying to negotiate a new deal with the district. It's been a tough battle, however, because like all school districts up and down the state, the district is facing massive cutbacks due to the state budget crisis.

"The district can and must do a better job managing its budget", said Sam Lucero, President of the Sweetwater Education Association. Lucero says dozens of teachers will show up at Monday night's scheduled school board meeting to state their case. The association represents 2,200 teachers and school nurses.

The Sweetwater Union High School District covers grades 7-12 and includes 24 schools. A district spokesperson said school officials are in a tough position, having cut $19 million from its budget since 2003. The district is facing an $11.6 million budget shortfall next year, in addition to the $9 million already cut this year. The district has offered its teachers a new contract that includes a 2 percent salary reduction and the possibility of laying off 160 teachers.

"We're looking at trying to spread the pain amongst all of us," said Lillian Leopold with the district. "If that means all of us taking a 2 percent pay cut, I would rather see that then people lose their jobs."

Leopold said the district is trying to avoid layoffs by offering early retirement incentives to teachers.

But Lucero points to the San Diego Unified School district as a model in dealing with budget issues brought on my the state money crisis.

"They've been able to deal with cutbacks without laying off any teachers, or implementing any salary reductions," said Lucero.

No decision was made at the board meeting Monday night at the Sweetwater Union High School District Headquarters, but it did provide the opportunity for people to express their opinion to the board.

They are going to hold a special meeting sometime next week. That meeting will be open to the public. The day and time have not yet been decided.

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