The fate of 76 elementary school teachers is still up in the air.

At Monday night's meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board, the board voted to delay voting on a tentative agreement between the district and the Hesperia Teachers Association teachers union that would bring back 76 teachers who had received pink slips earlier this year.

The teachers were among the 181 whom the board voted on February 23 to lay off in the 2009-2010 school year. But unlike the others, their salaries were largely subsidized with Class Size Reduction funds from the state. When the board made the decision, it was expected CSR funds would be slashed. But the funds survived, and on April 10, the HUSD and HTA negotiated bringing back those teachers, covering the district's costs with a six-month freeze of automatic pay hikes for teachers, saving the district an estimated $1.2 million.

The teachers voted in favor of the agreement.

"Ninety percent want us to save 76 jobs," said HTA president Jim Pace on Tuesday. "I'm in favor of it."

On Monday, the tentative agreement landed on the table in front of the school board. They decided to put off voting on it until after the May 19 election, when voters will vote on a series of propositions that, among other things, would extend the lifetime of a sales tax hike. May will also see a revised budget released by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a subsequent recalculation of how much money the state distributes to local school districts.

(Average Daily Attendance payments, which are paid to school districts based on attendance, make up 73 percent of the HUSD's general operation fund, which pays for employee salaries and benefits.)

Board member Robert Kirk originally suggested tabling the vote until after May 19, and fellow board members Hardy Black and Anthony Riley agreed, tabling the vote by a 3-2 majority.

"I'm in favor of it," Kirk said on Tuesday. "I am very leery of the financial situation of the state and the May 19 vote looms large and with the $8 billion deficit that they've announced that the state has right now with an additional, who knows, $3 to $6 billion if the initiatives aren't approved on May 19, I'm just really cautious right now."

The tentative agreement has language that says, if CSR funding is cut, or state revenue or spending flexibility are reduced, the HUSD and HTA will go back into the negotiation.

But Kirk still doesn't want to send the message that the 76 teachers will be getting their jobs back until he's more confident that it'll actually happen.

"I don't want to vote to bring them back now and then have to vote to lay them off again," Kirk said. "I think that would be cruel."

"There's clearly a path in that tentative agreement to go back and renegotiate," said Pace. "We don't feel like it's giving false hope. We feel like, no matter what happens on May 19, the state is going to stick to what they've said on Class Size Reduction. But if they don't, we'll go back and renegotiate" with the district.

Four of the five members of the school board were elected with the support of HTA phone banks and advertising. (The exception is board member Chris Bentley.) But three out of the four voted to table the tentative agreement.

"We elected board members to think about things and to think it over and do the right thing," said Pace. "But we didn't elect folks just to be servant to us."

He believes the board will ultimately vote in favor of the agreement.

"Am I surprised that they didn't vote on this TA? Yeah, I'm very surprised," said Pace. "The board didn't vote this down; the board delayed this. And we're expecting soon, very soon, the board will do the right thing and vote for this."

"It was a tough call," said Kirk. "I am supportive of the teachers."

The next meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Monday, May 4, at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street. Closed session begins at 2 p.m.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.