City teachers set table for strike

A huge majority of San Francisco teachers decided enough was enough Thursday night as they voted to authorize a strike in response to failed contract negotiations.

About 97 percent of teachers approved this first step in a two-tiered process required before striking. Teachers must vote again before a strike is executed, according to Matthew Hardy, spokesman for United Educators of San Francisco, the teachers union.

The school district — much like its UC and CSU counterparts — is looking to slash $30 million in teacher salaries after projecting a potential $83 million budget deficit.

And if you thought teaching couldn’t get any harder, the district is also preparing to issue more than 200 pink slips by May 15.

Union officials are skeptical of the school district’s claims to justify such intense cuts, Dennis Kelly, union president told KCBS:

“It is time for the district to stop seeking unilateral cuts and sweeping program changes, and to start treating the teachers and paraprofessionals with respect and to recognize what we have done to keep this district afloat.”

Freshly-appointed district superintendent Carlos Garcia said he sympathized with the plight of teachers, but maintained that the district had little options when faced with the deficit.

“There are simply no good options due to the chronic under funding of education in the State of California.”

That’s what they all say.

The Public Employment Relations Board approved a request to hire a state mediator for the conflict earlier this week, but plans have not yet been set, said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

This comes as deja vu all over again the for the district and teachers. Mediation was required two years ago to hammer out the details of the current contract, now in its last year.

To cut costs, the district is looking to increase class sizes for K-3, add four furlough days per school year, eliminate paid sabbaticals and scrap extra prep periods for teachers who teach AP classes.

Though the fate of the California education budget remains up in the air, one thing is for certain: Teachers aren’t going down without a fight.