Gompers Preparatory Academy announced Monday it had rescinded a decision made two weeks ago to lay off more than a third of the school’s teachers because of state budget cuts.

The layoffs would have increased class sizes from 19 students to 28 at the public charter school in southeastern San Diego. Ninety percent of Gompers students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and some may be the first in their families to attend college, the school has said.

Some teachers had criticized the layoffs as an attempt to end their recently formed union.

Why this matters

Most of Gompers Preparatory Academy’s roughly 1,300 students live in the Chollas View neighborhood of southeastern San Diego, a historically underserved population. The charter school says it’s committed to “designing an educational and social program that allows all students access to a college pathway.”

When Gompers initially said it was cutting 26 teachers and 12 classified staff, school officials cited budget woes caused in part by COVID-19. The layoffs were finalized last month when the school’s board of directors approved a $15.7 million budget for fiscal 2021 that projected a 36% cut in spending for teacher salaries because of the layoffs.

The school’s human resources department sent emails Monday to affected teachers and credited the state budget approved in late June with allowing them to rescind the layoff notices. The layoffs also were canceled for the other affected staffers, a Gompers official confirmed to inewsource Tuesday.

In the email sent to teachers, Gompers said that while the state budget helps resolve issues for the upcoming year, “there will be tough days ahead and more tough decisions will need to be made.”

Days after the Gompers board approved its budget, the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom finalized a state spending plan that kept K-12 funding intact. It relies on $14 billion in additional coronavirus relief funding that the state hopes to get from the federal government to help support schools.

Gompers has been embroiled in a union fight since 2018. The teachers association has yet to sign a contract and has alleged retaliation, bad-faith bargaining and other issues. A separate group of the school’s teachers is seeking to remove the union.

Nearly all teachers who received layoff notices last month were union supporters, a San Diego Education Association spokesperson previously told inewsource. Gompers leaders had maintained the cuts were necessary and said decisions were based on seniority.

Housed at a former middle school in Chollas View, Gompers serves about 1,300 students from sixth to 12th grade. Gompers officials have said they are projecting a 10% decline in enrollment this school year because of fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Some families have already removed their children and more are expected to move out of the area for health and financial reasons.

The public charter school says its mission “is to accelerate academic achievement for all students through a college preparatory culture and curriculum.”

A previous inewsource investigation, however, found that Gompers’ standardized test scores were among the worst in the county. That’s despite students’ straight A grades with courses in precalculus, advanced biology and AP history. At the time, some teachers alleged grades were inflated, and students told inewsource they felt unprepared for college after graduating from Gompers.

School officials denied the allegations.

Jennifer Bowman is an investigative reporter at inewsource, covering mostly education. She’s happy to be back in her hometown after stints at daily newspapers in Michigan and North Carolina. At the Asheville Citizen Times, Jennifer’s award-winning coverage of yearslong corruption helped...