SJ school district saves sports, cuts teachers

June 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the state's largest school districts made some tough decisions Thursday night on spending cuts to balance the budget. Sports programs were spared, but teachers were not.

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At Independence High School in East San Jose, football is more than just a sport -- it changes lives.

That's why when the East Side Union High School District considered cutting all athletic programs in March because of a $23 million budget shortfall, parents protested.

Thursday night, the school board reaffirmed its decision to save sports, but lose 80 teachers.

"There is trauma in the organization with these cuts and so we're looking to survive," said J.Manuel Herrera, a school board member.

Sports are surviving with the help of an $800,000 insurance settlement, fundraisers, and a $200 per student athlete donation.

"We're torn because we want to say we can't afford it, but if the parents are going to fundraise, great, but they haven't done that yet," said Marisa Hanson from the Eastside Teachers Association.

Teachers are trying not to put their need for a job ahead of student programs, but in these tight economic times, they say, it's hard not to.

"When they come to me and say we're having sports, but I'm still not getting my job back, it's really hard," said Hanson.

For Independence High School's head football coach Norm Brown, it's even harder.

"I got a pink slip from the district," said Brown.

He's lost his full time teaching position, but gets to keep his coaching job, which doesn't pay the bills.

In the end, the board passed a balanced budget, but teachers are still holding out hope that at least five of the 80 will be asked to return in the fall.

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