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Pay cuts and pink slips were the hot topic at the Chula Vista Elementary School District board meeting on March 9. Teachers, parents, and students waved signs with slogans such as “Cuts Hurt Kids” in the packed house; they are protesting a proposed 8 percent across-the-board salary reduction for district teachers and employees next school year.

Superintendent Lowell J. Billings sent a letter out to parents last month after the board made the proposal to the teachers’ union. In it, he stated that a $2 million reduction would also be implemented at the district office to help close the 15-million-dollar gap.

“CVESD must make ends meet,” Billings wrote in the letter. “Everyone must sacrifice to make this work.”

At the meeting, however, teachers and parents didn't seem to buy the idea that the pay cuts are the best option to serve children or that it's fair to teachers. A father, in addressing the board, said that he would rather pay for the teachers' salaries than the board members'; another teacher/parent also suggested they “dip” into that bucket before cutting teachers' salaries.

Other people heard by the board included a retired district teacher with an accounting degree who said the budget breakdown available to the public is difficult to understand and doesn't contain sufficient financial information on which to base a sound decision.

Many voiced concerns over teachers who already spend extra time and money out-of-pocket for their classes; increased insurance costs; and the need for a second job if the cuts are implemented.

A sixth-grade girl who addressed the board said, “[Teachers] shouldn't have to face pay cuts or pink slips when there are other things to be cut.” Also discussed that night were 455 positions on the chopping block, which included 374 K-6 general education teachers.

While hearing the addresses, school-board president Russell Coronado suggested everyone remain for the following item on the agenda: a breakdown of the budget numbers. The president voiced his disappointment after the majority of those opposed to teacher pay cuts left immediately before the presentation.

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