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Hundreds of Sweetwater Union HS District students protest teacher layoffs

Posted at 7:11 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 22:11:40-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif., (KGTV) — Students at eight high schools and two middle schools in Chula Vista spent part of their day protesting the newly proposed budget for Sweetwater Union High School District.

The school system is $30 million in the hole, and they plan to lay off nearly 240 teachers and staff by May. While their parents take to the polls, hundreds of students at Eastlake High School are also raising their voices.

"It's frustrating, and almost like, betrayal," Eastlake Senior, Isabella Borquez said.

Borquez said she could not get behind the district board's decision to lay off nearly 240 teachers, librarians, and learning center staff, all the fix the district's $30 million debt.

"They're getting rid of people who we, the students trust and connect with," Borquez said. "And they just want to rip those people away from us."

The district says the shortfall in money is not caused by mismanagement of funds. They say it is because of the decline in student enrollment and a decline in revenue.

Meanwhile, at the Sweetwater Union High School District office in Downtown Chula Vista, parents too held a protest. They said the district is doing everything but follow their mantra, "Putting students first."

"If you have less teachers to teach these kids, it is going to hurt them in the end," Jean Arce said. Her son is a student at Hilltop High School, who is expecting three of his current teachers to be pink-slipped this month. "This is not putting your students first. This is when you are putting finances first, and taking from the students."

10News looked at teacher salaries. They range from about $52,000 to $117,000. There is a large difference compared to that of Superintendent Dr. Karen Janney, who in 2018, took home $257,000.

We asked the district if there were other proposals on the table that include cutting back on management salaries, instead of pink-slipping teachers. In response, the district sent this statement:

Across the district all employees have been contributing to these solutions. If you look at the list of layoff notices, there are 12 management positions on the list – that is about 7% of the entire management team. Our management team and classified staff have taken furlough days over the past two years. All classified staff in the district took 2 unpaid furlough days and all management staff took between 2 and 10 days, based upon position – the superintendent has taken 10 unpaid days. In addition, there are several positions at the district office that have not been filled, including an Assistant Superintendent position. Finally, all district departments have decreased their budgets by 20-25% and there are additional reductions to come in the 2020-2021 year.
-Manuel Rubio Director, Grants and Communications Sweetwater Union High School District

Still, protesters said something must be done, and not at the expense of students.

"Students need the teachers, and we parents we need the teachers," Arce said. "This is for kids. This is for our schools. This is for their future."

The next public school board meeting is scheduled on Monday, March 9, 2020, at 6 p.m. at 1130 5th Ave.