School board approves issuing pink slips

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The San Francisco Unified School District's Board of Education Tuesday night approved sending pink slips to more than 900 teachers and other district employees who could be laid off this year to address a $113 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

The board approved the layoff notices, which must be sent to employees by March 15, but district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said the number could be reduced if concessions such as furlough days or wage freezes are approved by employee unions.

Among the proposed layoffs, 502 are to teachers, counselors, nurses and social workers, while 277 are to teachers' aides and 163 are to district administrators, Blythe said.

The cuts come after drastic reductions in state funding for education, she said.

“No one at the district wants to lose anyone,” Blythe said. “We have amazing people that work here, and it's not fair that we're in the position to have these massive layoff notices.”

Matthew Hardy, spokesman for the teachers' union United Educators of San Francisco, said he agreed that the state is to blame for the budget crisis but argued the number of layoffs “is way higher than it needed to be.”

Blythe said several negotiation sessions between the two sides have been agreed upon, and that the district “would love to work this out as quickly as possible to rescind these layoff notices as quickly as possible.”

Hardy said union members have already met twice with district officials for negotiations, but that the union has not received many budgetary documents it has requested to get an idea about the district's financial situation.

“They've been very slow about getting back to us, but very eager to rush this process along,” he said. “They keep calling us their labor partners, but it looks like they're just trying to push us out the door.”

Hardy said the cuts will likely have an effect on students because the employees receiving the pink slips “could be absolutely demoralized, and translates directly to the classroom.”

Blythe acknowledged the negative impact the cuts would have on schools, and said the approved number of layoffs is a “worst-case scenario” that will hopefully get reduced after negotiations are complete.

“I know how disheartening it is for people that go into education because they want to serve and teach,” she said. “It's a big setback not only for these individuals but the community as a whole when you have to decimate schools like this.”

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