Frustrated with lengthy negotiations over a new contract, teachers in San Diego city schools on Tuesday went public with denunciations of district officials and board members for what union leaders said was a lack of respect for teachers as well-educated professionals.
Placard-waving teachers filled the district's auditorium, loudly applauding several speakers calling for bigger raises, more class preparation time and a larger voice for teachers in decisions involving transfers and other educational issues than have been offered so far by the school board.
Union President Don Crawford castigated the district for failing to put its ideas for school reform--such as giving teachers more responsibility and demanding greater accountability--on the bargaining table.
As San Diego Teachers Assn. president, "I have seen grand notions and schemes generated from the school board and administration about how to improve schooling in San Diego," Crawford said. "All of these proposals share a common ingredient; they all will rise or fall on the backs of the teachers and classroom support staff out on the line in the classroom and the counseling center.
'I Am Mystified'
"That is why I am mystified by the unwillingness of the school board through its bargaining agents to deal fairly with the teachers in their contract talks," he said.
But Supt. Tom Payzant told the group that the pattern of negotiations traditionally followed by both management and the union is different this year because of the district's funding shortage. A lack of state funding forced the district to cut $9 million from the current budget last spring and to offer its 10,000 employees--including 5,000 teachers--a 2.5% raise plus a 0.5% one-time bonus. That compares with a 26% cumulative salary increase over the past three years.
"Yes, this year is different," Payzant said. "Teachers and classified employees can keep the pressure on the board and me and encourage false expectations among their colleagues with the hope that more money will be found. I did not go through the agony (of budget cuts) so that money could miraculously appear at the end of the bargaining process."
Negotiations at Impasse
After the meeting, board President Kay Davis, a strong supporter of school reforms, said that many non-salary proposals desired by the union also would cost money that the district does not have. And she said that the union has refused to discuss other reforms, such as giving a school its yearly budget in a lump sum and letting teachers and principals spend it as they wanted, as long as certain educational and integration goals were met.
Both sides agreed last month that negotiations are at an impasse, which allows a state mediator to try to find common grounds for compromise. The mediator will hold initial meetings with the parties on Dec. 17. Teachers are working without a contract. The previous one expired June 30.
Teachers already have been asked to follow the expired work rules to the letter and make no volunteer efforts at their schools. In addition, they will picket various schools before and after classes this week, will hand out leaflets at the airport on Thursday, and will hold a candlelight vigil next Monday in front of Payzant's house.
"We don't trust you," teacher Frank Graham-Cuso from Henry High School told the board.