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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Public School Layoff Notices Sharply Lower Than In Recent Years

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 7:10 AM

Teacher layoffs: another summer time ritual.
  • Teacher layoffs: another summer time ritual.

Today, 70 teachers and 35 other public school employees will receive layoff notifications.

If this year is anything like recent ones, though, almost all those employees will have their jobs back by the time school is back in session.

The layoffs have become something of an annual rite of summer vacation as of late. The San Francisco Unified School District, cash-strapped and uncertain how much state-funding it'll receive for the upcoming school year, fires off the layoff notices as a precaution. This, in turn, angers the city's teacher's union, United Educators of San Francisco, which sees the layoff notices as an unnecessary stress on the teachers, some of whom will likely find jobs in other district's rather than wait and hope that the layoff will be rescinded.

This year's layoff numbers, though, do bring signs of optimism for both sides.

Here's how the process works: On March 15, the district sends preliminary layoff notifications to teachers. Over the next two months, some of those layoffs are rescinded. The final notifications come today.

This year, the district sent out 137 total layoff notifications in March, 32 of which have since been rescinded, leaving the 105 expected for today, according to the district. These numbers are significantly lower than in the past few years.

In 2012, the district sent out 657 layoff notification in March, according to the union. In 2011, 403 employees got notices. In 2010, it was 912. Even in those economically lean times in California, those 1972 total layoff notices only resulted in 22 actual layoffs (five teachers and 17 other school workers, all in 2011). So the stakes are lower this go 'round.

These days, finances look better, thanks to an improving economy, Proposition 30, and a state income revenue that is so far $4.5 billion higher than expected. Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that his proposed budget would project revenues to exceed expectations by nearly $3 billion over the course of the fiscal year. And because of 1998's Proposition 98, much of that excess will be funneled into the public school system.

To the union, this new-found statewide budget stability should mean no more preemptive layoffs. The district, says UESF spokesman Matthew Hardy, should know that there will be enough money to cover those 150 employees. After all, the layoffs rarely stuck even in tougher economic periods.

"With the massive influx of resources to the district, these layoffs are not only unnecessary, they are unconscionable," UESF president Dennis Kelly said in a statement.

The district, however, claims that a budget shortfall, combined with an expected $3.2 million in cuts from the federal sequestration, have produced enough uncertainty in the upcoming budget to necessitate the precautionary layoffs. The presumed state surplus is in Brown's proposed budget, but has not passed the legislature and thus remains subject to change, notes SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe.

"Some of these layoffs relate to funding shortfalls, but many of them relate to positions that are going away because they are no longer needed, either because a particular employee's credential area doesn't match the needs of their school site for next year and/or because a short-term grant funded resource is sunsetting," she adds.

The union feels certain that this is simply the familiar song and dance.

"We don't believe that most of the layoffs are going to go through," says Hardy.

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Albert Samaha

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