Credit: California School Employees Association
Linda Figone, bus driver with Gilroy Unified School District, delivered books to students to facilitate distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Imagine having a job where your co-workers have greater job security than you — not because of merit or seniority, but simply because of their job titles. That’s the reality for California’s classified school employees, who feed and transport our students, ensure our schools are clean and safe and keep our students learning through technical and educational support.

Currently, the law requires districts to provide layoff notices to teachers and certificated administrators by March 15th, or they are protected from layoff for the next academic year. They also have hearing rights if they receive layoff notices.

In contrast, classified employees, who are the lowest wage earners in our schools, who are predominately women and are the most racially and ethnically diverse workforce in education, live with the constant anxiety that they can be laid off any time of the year with only a 60-day notice and in some cases with no notice at all. They also have no hearing rights.

Because of this layoff notice inequity, classified employees have long been the go-to target for layoffs when districts want to balance their budgets.

Assembly Bill 438, which passed out of the Legislature with bipartisan support and is currently sitting on the governor’s desk, would ensure classified staff receives the same layoff notice protections as teachers and highly paid administrators.

It does not prevent districts from laying off classified employees, but rather requires they provide the same notice they already provide to administrators and teachers. Districts are familiar with the layoff notice law; it is not new to them. They will have to plan their budgets taking into consideration their entire staff instead of planning for half and balancing their budget on the backs of the other half.

The need for codifying these equitable protections in statute was made even more clear last year when the Legislature passed a budget trailer bill protecting classified cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers from layoffs and included intent language stating that other classified employees shouldn’t be laid off. This was done to protect critical student and community services during the pandemic. Regardless, many school districts and county offices of education did not comply with the Legislature’s intent, and more than 2,000 classified employees were laid off, while administrators and teachers were protected.

The very school administrators who enjoy these layoff protections are the ones working hard to defeat this bill and maintain the “job protections for me, but not for thee” status quo. They complain that the March notice date does not align with the budget process, but AB 438 provides districts the same layoff flexibility they currently have for teachers and administrators, extending notice deadlines to August when the state budget’s cost of living adjustment is less than 2%.

AB 438 will right decades of wrongs by treating all California school employees, including the lowest wage earners, equitably when it comes to layoff protections. That is why all California education labor groups, including teachers, classified employees and the California Labor Federation, came together to sponsor this critical bill.

It is long past time that California supports our classified staff, who provide the essential services that keep our students safe, fed and learning, with the same job security as their colleagues.

•••

Matthew “Shane” Dishman is president of the California School Employees Association, which represents some 250,000 school support staff throughout California.

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  1. Maria 2 months ago2 months ago

    Finally, someone is thinking about us I respect teachers, but they have so much more benefits than us, clerical staff.

  2. Todd Maddison 2 months ago2 months ago

    Let me see here…. So, the problem is that school districts are having increasing difficulty balancing their budgets. Despite a rise in revenue/ADA almost 3 times the rate of inflation in the last decade schools often need to make personnel adjustments. Understandable given so many of those budget issues are driven out-of-control increases in pay and benefits for school employees during this time, and we’re now likely to see declining enrollment. Schools need to be … Read More

    Let me see here….

    So, the problem is that school districts are having increasing difficulty balancing their budgets. Despite a rise in revenue/ADA almost 3 times the rate of inflation in the last decade schools often need to make personnel adjustments.

    Understandable given so many of those budget issues are driven out-of-control increases in pay and benefits for school employees during this time, and we’re now likely to see declining enrollment.

    Schools need to be nimble to navigate those budget issues without cutting from things that impact our kids. Work rules and contracts for administrators and teachers make it difficult for them to do that, so their “go to” is classified staff.

    And the answer is NOT to make it easier to make staffing adjustments equitably throughout the organization (throughout all job classifications), based on what is best for our kids.

    No, the answer is to leave those onerous rules in place and ADD more limitations to what a school district can do.

    Is there a thread of actual logic in that anywhere?

    THAT won’t simply force districts to make more (or all) cuts from our kids instead of the adults. Never.

    All employees in California are guaranteed at least 60 days notice if there is a “mass layoff”, why are all school employees not simply covered under the same laws as you and I?

  3. Ben Sagucio 2 months ago2 months ago

    Your opinion article brings up a much needed protection. Yet, I worry that the tone creates a sense of hostility between colleagues who are hourly vs. salaried. The argument to be made is clear that educational communities need protection. If we believe education to be a critical service, job security for every position in educational institutions is a must. With the pandemic, American society should grow to understand that K-12 schooling is more than education; … Read More

    Your opinion article brings up a much needed protection. Yet, I worry that the tone creates a sense of hostility between colleagues who are hourly vs. salaried.

    The argument to be made is clear that educational communities need protection. If we believe education to be a critical service, job security for every position in educational institutions is a must. With the pandemic, American society should grow to understand that K-12 schooling is more than education; it has a greater hand in raising children than ever expected, in our country. The individuals that feed and transport our country’s children deserve better consideration…

    But educational enthusiasts will better serve the cause by propping up ALL employees in a school. The problem with American education systems are the laws that govern them. Those are created with partisan interests, through our politicians and lobbyists. We allowed the entire American education community to be hijacked by capitalism, when we decided to base the system off of Fortune 500 companies’ wants and desires. Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave.

  4. tom mccloskey 2 months ago2 months ago

    Getting a layoff notice 5 months in advance is a luxury that private sector employees in no way enjoy. Why should public school employees get such privilege? Not to worry though, I just read that public education unions donated $2.5 million to Newsome's defense of the recall vote, with an additional $1.8 million donated by the CA teachers association. These were the top contributors to his cause. Like the correctional officers … Read More

    Getting a layoff notice 5 months in advance is a luxury that private sector employees in no way enjoy. Why should public school employees get such privilege? Not to worry though, I just read that public education unions donated $2.5 million to Newsome’s defense of the recall vote, with an additional $1.8 million donated by the CA teachers association. These were the top contributors to his cause. Like the correctional officers union, Newsome will reward his pals. This kind of pay-off should be outlawed as corrupt, but has been allowed for many years in CA. What a place to live!