Sacramento area sees fewer school layoffs as budgets improve

Published: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 1:09 pm

May 15 was less scary for teachers this year.

Wednesday's deadline for school districts to hand out layoff notices to educators ended this year with 182 teachers losing their jobs in Sacramento County.

All told, 250 teachers in the region that includes Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties received final layoff notices this year.

That's a far cry from the more than 1,200 Sacramento area teachers, counselors and school nurses who received pink slips by the state-mandated deadline in 2011.

"It's such an amazing feeling," said Scott Smith, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. "I've seen years where they laid off 730, and we were looking at an auditorium full of teachers being laid off. … Now we say, 'Wow, finally it's starting to get better.'"

After struggling through years of layoffs, California schools have started to reverse course thanks to voter-approved taxes and economic recovery.

Last year, 650 Sacramento County teachers received final pink slips by the May 15 deadline, most of them in the Sacramento City Unified (395) and San Juan school districts (298.5).

This year San Juan will cut 28 teachers, while Sacramento City will lay off 95.

While support workers such as secretaries and custodians receive layoff notices through a different process and districts did not face a Wednesday deadline to inform them, local schools have indicated they also expect to lay off fewer of those employees.

In Sacramento County, 143 support workers have received pink slips this year, far fewer than the 541 by mid-May last year.

The actual number of teachers who lose their jobs will decrease through the summer as districts hire back teachers as more money becomes available or other teachers retire or leave the district.

Statewide, about 1,256 members of the California Teachers Association received final pink slips – about half of what the union had projected, according to President Dean Vogel. The union says it represents about 95 percent of K-12 teachers.

"This is pretty good news," Vogel said.

He attributes the turnaround to voter-approved Proposition 30, which helps fund education, and to districts that have relaxed their grip on reserves as the budget picture has improved.

The union president says it is too early to celebrate. Despite the increase in education funding, he believes schools are still underfunded. "We are still looking at class sizes that are over 30 just about everywhere. There is still a lot of work that has to be done."

Since 2008, California has lost 8.5 percent of its teacher workforce, going from 310,361 to 283,836, according to the California Department of Education.

This is the first time in at least five years that Elk Grove – the region's largest school district – hasn't had to send out layoff notices because of budget cuts, said school officials.

They said the seven pink slips being sent to teachers are due to the expiration of grant-funded positions or lower demand for some middle and high school subjects.

Sacramento City Unified, which issued 95 pink slips to educators by the May 15 deadline – the highest number in the region – made cuts because of declining enrollment and budget uncertainty. District spokesman Gabe Ross said school districts are still unsure how Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers will resolve a dispute over how to distribute funds statewide.

Some of the Sacramento City Unified layoff notices are due to the upcoming closure of seven schools, although the closures mostly affect support staff, Ross said.

Smith hopes the district will be able rehire all 95 who received layoff notices this year and some of the 150 laid off in previous years.

Ross said it is unlikely many of the 95 teachers will be rehired before next school year because the district already factored in attrition.

"I always think there are other things the district can do besides lay off teachers," Smith said. "It's harder to justify laying off teachers when there is more money coming into the district."

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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