Teachers in San Jose Unified have voted for two furlough days — essentially two days without pay — to help close the district's budget gap.

The move affects more than 1,700 teachers, as well as principals and administrators. Though other local school districts have discussed the possibility of furloughs, San Jose Unified is the first in the Bay Area to actually vote to do so.

The two furlough days will cost each employee about 1 percent of his or her salary but save the district roughly $1.5 million this fiscal year.

San Jose Unified, which has a $130 million budget, is struggling with a deficit of $8 million to $10 million for this school year and a $13 million deficit for 2009-2010.

The district, which serves more than 31,000 students, will be closed Jan. 20 and March 6. The two days will not affect students and families because they were already scheduled as professional development days.

"We know that sacrificing income is difficult, but it is the right thing to do for our students,'' said Superintendent Don Iglesias.

Janice Allen, president of the San Jose Teachers Association, said that furlough days are preferable to midyear layoffs.

"We do not want members losing their jobs in the middle of the school year,'' Allen said. "This would be devastating to them, as well as being very disruptive to the schools.''


Advertisement

The Legislature is still wrangling over how to best close California's $42 billion budget gap. Schools don't yet know how much money they'll get, but districts are looking at laying off counselors, janitors and librarians, shaving five days off the school year and raising class sizes to 35 students.

As the nation's economic crisis continues, furloughs have become an increasingly popular idea. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting the 180-day school year by five days and furloughing other state workers.

Gannett, the country's largest newspaper chain, recently ordered most of its 40,000 employees to take a week of unpaid leave by March 31.

In Ventura County, teachers, administrators and classified employees with the Moorpark Unified School District also voted over the winter break to take one furlough day. That will save the 7,200-student district about $220,000.

"We are very grateful that our employees agreed to this,'' said Teri Williams, Moorpark's assistant superintendent of personnel services.

Staff development days give veteran and young teachers alike the chance to learn about the latest research and techniques for reaching diverse students.

"It is important for teachers to be at the top of their skill set,'' said Sandra Jackson of the California Teachers Association, who said a vote to voluntarily furlough is preferable to layoffs. "These days are critical.''

But picking another day would mean a loss of instructional time for students and inconvenience working parents, who would have to scramble to find child care.

Contact Dana Hull at dhull@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-2706.