Credit: iStock / Braun S

California’s school districts expect to issue close to 1,750 teacher layoff notices despite a statewide teacher shortage.

Wednesday was the deadline for districts statewide to issue pink slips, or reduction in force notices, to teachers, counselors, administrators and other credentialed employees who could be laid off at the end of the school year because of potential budget shortfalls.

The 1,750-layoff figure is an estimate issued by the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, based on a survey of key districts.

Educators and union leaders estimate that few if any of the pink-slipped teachers come from the most in-demand jobs, including special education, math, science and bilingual education. (State law requires layoffs be based on seniority, but also allows for districts to protect teachers with limited experience if they’re credentialed in jobs that would be difficult to fill otherwise.)

The teacher layoffs are part of an annual ritual as districts “prepare for the worst” when they start crafting spending plans for next school year that are based on conservative early state budget estimates.

“It’s already a struggle to find qualified teachers, especially in hard to fill jobs. Districts and the state should instead be working on finding better incentives to keep their teachers,” said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association.

Typically, many of these notices are rescinded before the end of the school year as districts receive better funding estimates from lawmakers before the final budget is approved in June.

But these notices also come during a time when many education leaders, lawmakers, and researchers say California is experiencing the worst teacher shortage  in more than a decade. So it raises the question as to why these teachers face the threat of job loss when so many districts are desperate to hire and retain them.

The answer lies with the set of conflicting state laws for state budget projections and requirements for giving teachers advance warning regarding possible job loss.

By law, public school districts in California had until March 15 to send notices to teachers and other credentialed staff who might be laid off at the end of the school year. This amounts to about a 90-day notice.

Districts make these projections based on the governor’s preliminary budget proposal released two months prior, in January.

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a minimal 2.1 percent increase for K-12 education in January, which educators said would not be enough to cover districts’ increasing salaries, benefits and costs.

“It’s already a struggle to find qualified teachers, especially in hard to fill jobs,” said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. “Districts and the state should instead be working on finding better incentives to keep their teachers.”

The California Teachers Association says that has led to about three dozen districts sending a combined 1,750 pink slips. These figures represent a small fraction of the more than 325,000 teachers statewide. And the number of notices is far below the 25,000 that were sent out in the peak of the recession in 2010.

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, sent out 850 notices, the most of any district. Santa Ana Unified sent out 287 notices. Montebello Unified sent out 333 notices. About 30 other districts sent out 50 or fewer, according to the teachers union.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, sent out 1,300 notices to administrators, but none to classroom teachers. So these figures were not included in the union estimate despite the fact that many of those administrators could bump back to a teaching position if they have a credential.

Los Angeles Unified spokeswoman Barbara Jones said the district hopes to rescind most, if not all of these notices. And even if some administrators return to the classroom, no current teachers would lose their job, she said.

Analysts and educators expect the governor’s updated version of the budget released in May to be more generous to K-12 education, especially as the state’s economy has continued to grow, meaning most of these jobs will be saved.

Teri Burns, legislative analyst for the California School Boards Association, said that even if most of the teachers receiving notices end up keeping their jobs, this yearly cycle exacerbates the state’s teacher shortage.

“These notices disrupt peoples’ lives unnecessarily,” she said. “If you’re a teacher and you receive one of these notices, then you start looking or another job, or even look to leave the profession.”

Burns said for students considering careers as teachers, reading reports of pink slips given each spring to teachers might signal that it’s a very volatile career.

The California School Boards Association has recommended that the state eliminate the March 15 warning deadline, and instead use the June 15 date for informing teachers that they’re actually being laid off.

Other groups have also proposed that move, but it’s been opposed by the California Teachers Association, with union leaders saying teachers need as much warning as possible to look for other jobs or make other preparations just in case they face unemployment.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, the state’s second-largest teachers union, said the number of spring layoff notices is also not a valid measurement of how the state is being affected by the teacher shortage.

“You have to look at whether a district giving out layoff notices is experiencing declining enrollment, or if they have their own unique budget problems. Not every district is the same,” he said.

Districts facing the most severe teacher shortages are reporting no layoff notices including San Francisco Unified, San Jose Unified, Oakland Unified, and Fresno Unified.

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  1. B Wimbo 7 months ago7 months ago

    If your are a CTE teacher be prepared for the ol’ pink slip. In my 14 years of teaching ROP/CTE, guess how many I received? …14. Maybe you’ve seen my comments about the “GREAT JOB SECURITY” that CTE teachers have. Good luck attracting more, California. I am done with you!

  2. Jeffykins 7 months ago7 months ago

    The layoff numbers do not include an additional number of "non-re-elect" notices given to newer teachers who are in Probationary Year I or Year II status. You can be let go for any reason when you're probationary so that wouldn't "count" as a layoff. The count also doesn't include "temporary" teachers who may have actually been working in districts for multiple years, not just a one-year thing. Read More

    The layoff numbers do not include an additional number of “non-re-elect” notices given to newer teachers who are in Probationary Year I or Year II status. You can be let go for any reason when you’re probationary so that wouldn’t “count” as a layoff. The count also doesn’t include “temporary” teachers who may have actually been working in districts for multiple years, not just a one-year thing.

  3. David Page 7 months ago7 months ago

    SDUSD lost 8,000 students @ $10k each, gave 14% in raises all in the last 4 years. In spite of pension reform costs they were warned of. Now the jobs younger teachers are the cost of raises for the older ones.

  4. Roxana Marachi 7 months ago7 months ago

    For readers interested in the roots to some of the issues described above, the following video on The School Closure Playbook includes important trends to pay attention to: http://sco.lt/4vngAb

  5. Paul 7 months ago7 months ago

    Of course the California School Boards Association wants its members to be allowed to dump teachers in the closing weeks of the school year! Receiving a layoff notice by mid-March leaves the affected teacher time to fill out often-lengthy applications, obtain current letters of reference, and schedule interviews. Waiting until the start of the summer would make those steps difficult, if not impossible, what with schools shutting down and principals going on vacation. Even if you could rush … Read More

    Of course the California School Boards Association wants its members to be allowed to dump teachers in the closing weeks of the school year!

    Receiving a layoff notice by mid-March leaves the affected teacher time to fill out often-lengthy applications, obtain current letters of reference, and schedule interviews.

    Waiting until the start of the summer would make those steps difficult, if not impossible, what with schools shutting down and principals going on vacation.

    Even if you could rush an application and line up references immediately, how could you teach a demonstration lesson in an empty classroom?

    Teachers have too little economic mobility as it is. Those who receive pink slips owe it to themselves to apply to other school districts, and they need time to go through the process.

    On a separate note, I’d be grateful if Mr. Leal could complete the layoff picture by reporting statistics on the number of temporary teachers released. By the time the recession had set in, school districts were openly flouting the law and bringing certificated employees in on temporary contracts by default. A teacher might expect a series of one-year positions, sometimes in the same district! Even though funding has now recovered, use of the temporary classification beyond the narrow circumstances listed in the Education Code remains widespread. More layoffs to count!

  6. tina andres 7 months ago7 months ago

    Correction: Santa Ana Unified sent out 339 notices. And you don’t need to wonder about special education: 15 notices were given to special ed teachers in Santa Ana. This includes one at my own school so I know for a fact that at least some special ed teachers received a notice.

  7. Ray Elledge 7 months ago7 months ago

    I find the shortage of career technical education teachers at critical stages. More importantly the hurtles a industry subject matter expert trying to become a CTE teacher is next to impossible. CITEA is one long-standing volunteer group on a shoestring budget addressing these two critical problems. Please issue monthly reports regarding this issue. Our graying workforce is retiring in greater numbers without enough entry-level skilled people to support low-tech, high-tech industry and advanced manufacturing. Every … Read More

    I find the shortage of career technical education teachers at critical stages. More importantly the hurtles a industry subject matter expert trying to become a CTE teacher is next to impossible.
    CITEA is one long-standing volunteer group on a shoestring budget addressing these two critical problems. Please issue monthly reports regarding this issue.
    Our graying workforce is retiring in greater numbers without enough entry-level skilled people to support low-tech, high-tech industry and advanced manufacturing.
    Every manufacturing job supports five service industry jobs, including teachers. Reference LAEDC, Milken Institute, Reshoring America and others.
    Thank you for your consideration, I am available as an subject matter expert in Advanced Manufacturing.