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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