Teacher layoffs lowest since economic downturn, CTA reports


California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel

California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel

Teacher layoffs shrank to the lowest number since the recession began in 2008, with about 1,300 teachers, librarians, counselors and other public school employees receiving final layoff notifications by the May 15 deadline, according to the California Teachers Association.

The 1,300 notices amounted to less than half of the 3,000 preliminary “pink slip” layoff notifications that school districts sent on March 15, the state deadline to inform teachers they might be laid off. In March 2012, some 20,000 teachers and school employees received preliminary layoff notices and about 8,000 faced final layoff notices, according to the Association, which tracks the numbers. Typically, most of the laid-off personnel are rehired, but the rehiring may not occur until August.

“This is a very big deal,” said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association. “Without the passage of Prop. 30, we wouldn’t be looking at numbers like this.” Proposition 30, which passed in November, prevented a $5 billion midyear cut to K-12 schools and provides more funding for schools during the next seven years.

But Vogel cautioned that education woes in the state are far from over. “Public education in California is severely underfunded,” he said. “We’ve finally got a governor who is paying attention to that.”

The Association could not provide a district-by-district breakdown of the layoffs, but the state’s largest district, Los Angeles Unified, did not lay off any certificated staff, a district official said. Some 250 teachers in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties were laid off, the Sacramento Bee reported. The Pasadena Unified School District laid off 93.5 full time employee equivalent positions, a spokesperson said, and the San Francisco Unified School District sent 105 final layoff notices to teachers and other certified staff, as well as to paraprofessionals such as classroom aides and family liaisons, according to a statement from the district.

While the layoff numbers were relatively low, they still caused considerable distress, said Matthew Hardy, communications director for United Educators San Francisco, a local teachers union.

“I’m not sure the district understands the cost of this,” Hardy said. “It creates a sense of separation and alienation from upper management and administration, which unfortunately leads to a sense of cynicism.”

San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard A. Carranza said in a statement that some of the layoffs this year relate to funding shortfalls, but many relate to positions that are no longer needed, either because a particular employee’s credential area doesn’t match the needs of the school site for next year or because a grant-funded resource is ending.

“This year marks the first year since 2007 that SFUSD is not facing hundreds of layoffs due to anticipated budget cuts from the state of California,” Carranza said. “Though the funding climate is much improved, we still have several areas where there are budget shortfalls and budget uncertainties.”

At Rosemead High School in the El Monte Union High School District, English and drama teacher Rachel Snow received a final layoff notice last week and said she felt torn between looking for a new job and hoping she would be rehired. “I need to be insured and I need employment, but at same time, I want to hold out and hope I get my job back,” she said. “I love my kids and have been working really hard on building up the drama program.”

An EdSource survey of the state’s 30 largest school districts found that 20 issued pinks slips to 10,854 teachers in March 2011. By October 2011, all but 2,213 of them had been rehired. A May 2012 EdSource report, Schools Under Stress, said that the stress caused by layoffs “has a rippling effect across a school and is felt by parents, children, and remaining staff.” The report noted, “Recent research from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that teacher layoffs can have an impact on students’ academic achievement.”

 

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7 Responses to “Teacher layoffs lowest since economic downturn, CTA reports”

  1. Paul said

    on May 20, 2013 at 9:27 am

    The decline in layoffs among permanent (“tenured”) and probationary teachers is good news, but there are additional untold thousands of temporary teachers, each one of whom is automatically released at the end of the year.

    To conclude that emloyment stability had been restored would be incorrect. It is very important to note that there is no statewide system for tracking the layoff of probationary or permanent teachers, let alone the automatic release of temporary teachers.

    Background:

    By law, a temporary teacher works for only one semester, when a decline in enrollment is imminent, or works for up to one year at a time, replacing a teacher who is on long-term leave. Increasingly, the law is being ignored: all teachers new to a district are classified as temporary, even though probationary status (“tenure track”, if you will) is the legal minimum for most openings. Temporary employees are automatically released at the end of the year; they have no rehire rights.

    In (mis)classifying teachers, school districts wield all of the power. If a candidate knows the law and insists on a probationary contract, the district simply hires someone else.

    All of the school districts in my geographic area have adopted this practice in recent years. The temporary math teachers in my home district are set to be released in June, and several probationary or permanent math teachers are being laid off in addition, but the district is already advertising identical math openings on EdJoin.

    Lest anyone think that this is an isolated phenomenon, it is worth noting the legal activity surrounding the issue. This lawsuit, by Associated Pomona Teachers, includes a succinct explanation and solid evidence:

    http://aptctanea.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/APTlawsuit.pdf

    • navigio replied

      on May 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

      This is interesting. I need to read the charges more carefully, but isn’t this approach used as a way to avoid some of the uncertainty related to our budgets in the past couple of years? If so, is that a valid justification?

      Are school districts required to publish information about teacher status (temporary vs probationary vs permanent, etc)?

      Maybe making this a real-time requirement would avoid this situation happening to the extent it does?

    • Paul replied

      on May 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Hello, Navigio.

      Financial uncertainty is not among the legal conditions for temporary classification. The law defines only four classifications, and unless specific conditions for substitute, temporary or permanent classification are met, a teacher defaults to the probationary classification, which includes rehire rights in the event of a layoff. (Certificated employees are said to have a “classification”, which has nothing to do with classified employment.)

      The courts have consistently held that temporary means temporary: districts may not have on staff more temporary teachers than teachers on leave. (The law also allows temporary first-semester-only jobs, when enrollment will decline mid-year, and temporary categorical positions, if the work will end due to the expiration of a funding source.)

      Especially for fear of lawsuits, districts must inform temporary employees of their classification up-front. But a teacher who needs a job can’t say no. She can sue later in the year, but that’s very expensive and time-comsuming, and people who do it obviously become pariahs in their own districts, and unemployable elsewhere.

      There is no requirement to inform the public, or the state, that a teacher has been classified as temporary. Some districts mention classification in “certificated personnel action” reports to the school board.

      Unfortunately, the CSBA’s memo to districts has been moved or taken down. There was also a Webinar with strategies for removing teachers. I always took it as evidence of what voters, taxpayers, elected officials and education executives REALLY think of teachers. Here are some links to information about pioneering classification cases. Sadly, these pages are less succinct than the old CSBA memo, and much less entertaining than the old Webinar, with gloating lawyers talking about “Prob. 0s”.

      http://www.lozanosmith.com/news_info.php?id=16

      http://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/court-grants-teachers-provisional-credentials-right-layoff-hearing-rul

      http://www.cta.org/en/Professional-Development/Publications/2009/06/Educator-June-09/0609-Tas-01.aspx

      • navigio replied

        on May 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        I wonder how much of the rescinded layoffs are a result of someone making a stink later on.

        Anyway, it seems odd that the status is not published (or even sent to the state) if there is an ed code restriction on its usage. I have asked a board member to see whether they are at least notified, but somehow I doubt it. Anyway, that doesnt seem to be required.

        • el replied

          on May 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm

          From my perspective, districts “over-pink-slip” March 15 because the budget uncertainty has been so enormous. When the State wasn’t finalizing the budget until the following January, districts wanted more time to try to figure out what the heck was happening, and the pink slips gave them flexibility.

          The problem was, those notices also created tons of stress and disruption – even for those rehired.

          In some cases, they were issued with clear intent to rehire. In our district, there was a year when it issued only one, and it was to a teacher whose original specific position was being eliminated – but everyone understood we already had a new position for her, filling a retirement vacancy.

          Paul describes a labor situation in his district that seems deeply pathological (from many comments over time). I have no doubt some districts act that way. I can only report that it’s not everywhere.

          • Paul replied

            on May 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm

            Hello, el.

            You raise another good point, about “over-pink-slipping”, or issuing preliminary layoff notices to more teachers than necessary. The New Teacher Project, I think, wrote a report called “The Widget Effect”, in which a few simple local policy solutions were suggested. Giving retirees a financial incentive to notify well before the end of the year was one. Another was renegotiating contractual timelines for voluntary and involuntary intra-district transfers, so that accurate staffing information would become available before the end of the year. It should be noted that the original article counted only teachers who received final notices, eliminating most of the numeric influence of “over-pink-slipping” — except in districts like mine, where PKS (economic) layoffs are patently unecessary, but the victims likely to apply to other districts before their old positions are magically reopened in June or August.

            Also, I wouldn’t call the overuse of temporary teachers pathological. Is it good for kids? No. Is it good for teachers? No. Is it good for site and district administrators? Absolutely. Without due process rights, temporary teachers can be summarily removed, at any moment. This is a great way to save time on screening new hires, supervising them, mentoring them, and resolving problems. Since all temporary contracts expire at the end of the year, no real effort need be invested in evaluating those teachers. Evaluations can be perfunctory, if they’re even required under the local contract or as a matter of local policy; state law (the Stull Act) requires evaluation of probationary and permanent teachers, only. Since temporary teachers have no rehire rights, administrators can rehire the temporary teachers they liked, the winners in the ultimate personality contest. Finally, dumping teachers well before they have a chance to become permanent depresses average wages within a single district; next year’s crop of temporaries is, on average, lower on the salary scale than this year’s crop would have been, had they been classified as probationary and permitted to stay.

  2. Richard ONeill said

    on May 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    “Underfunding” education is a common conclusion but there is a case to be made that the better descriptor is ” defunding “. Whether causally related to the implementation of Prop 13, or to the Baby Boomers high fixed costs, or to immigration, or to the inflation of the Carter-Reagan years, or to accounting tricks with unfunded mandates, the clear long term secular trend has been toward requiring schools to do more with proportionally less. Its been trending like this for 30 years, and the repositioning of the Feds into the driver’s seat—yes, Common Core that would be—aint fixing it either.

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