Dozens of teachers and supporters rallied outside Hesperia Unified School District offices on Main Street Wednesday afternoon, protesting what they say are unreasonable cuts the district wants in their salary and benefits.


The HUSD, the Victor Valley's largest single employer, is attempting to close a $13 million deficit in next year's budget. Approximately 90 percent of the district's unrestricted funds go to salary and benefits, and the deficit has been divided up proportionally between each of the three categories of employees -- teachers, non-teaching staff and management. For the teachers, that works out to $8.4 million in cuts.


"The sticking point is the hard and fast $8.4 million that some board members insist be taken out of teachers' compensation and taken out of teachers' salary and made permanent," Hesperia Teachers Association President Tom Kerman said Tuesday. The union has targeted board members Hardy Black and Robert Kirk in their protests this spring. Both men are on the controlling bloc of the school board and are up for reelection in November. "There's no restoration whatsoever involved in it, from what [negotiators] are saying. Yeah, that is a sticking point for us."


The salary and benefits cuts will be even deeper than previously expected if the school board takes teacher layoffs off the table as a cost-cutting measure. In February, the board voted to lay off 94 teachers, should the district and teachers union not find any other way of cutting $8.4 million from the budget. The board will meet Friday morning to discuss rescinding nearly all the pink slips. (A few teachers who were hired for a single year or whose salaries were paid for by now-bankrupt state programs will not have their notices rescinded.)


Closed doors negotiations between the teachers and HUSD have repeatedly broken down this spring, with the district threatening to declare an impasse earlier this year, which would have brought in an outside mediator to handle binding arbitration. Negotiations had again broken down on Wednesday, according to Kerman.


The union president also disagrees with the philosophical basis of having every HUSD group taking a comparable cut.


"'Fair share' is an arbitrary number simply based on salaries and expenditures," said Kerman. "It doesn't take into account the fair share of what we do, what our purpose and what the [purpose of] the district is, which is educating our students. That's our number one priority. We're the number one group of people that does that."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star