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Despite increase in funding, school districts still sending layoff notices to teachers

Teachers, parents and supporters rallied last year to protest budget cuts and layoffs.
Teachers, parents and supporters rallied last year to protest budget cuts and layoffs.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

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Year after year, March 15th has been a date of dread for California public school teachers. The date, which falls on a Friday this year, is the preliminary deadline for school districts to send out "Reduction In Force" notices for cuts to next year's staff.

But Governor Jerry Brown said two months ago that this year would be different. He proposed a state budget without funding cuts to schools. The news was welcomed by educators still reeling from five years of intense budget cuts that led to tens of thousands of layoffs across the state.

But that doesn't mean there won't be any RIF notices, although they will be “significantly less this year than it was last year,” predicted Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association

“We did have about 20,000 RIFs as of March 15 last year and right now we’re sitting at about 2,400,” he said. Vogel expects lawyers for the teachers union to give a more accurate count later this week.

Some school districts, though, are still sending out a significant number of notices. L.A. Unified is sending layoff notices to more than 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials.

Pasadena Unified plans to send out teacher layoff notices too.

Alvin Nash, president of United Teachers of Pasadena said the district plans to send layoff notices this year to almost 10 percent of the Pasadena Unified’s 922 teachers. Still, that's much fewer than the 165 notices it sent out in 2010.

The notices don't mean a teacher or staff member will definitely be laid off. Districts often rescind a certain percentage once final budget numbers become available. Final layoff notices go out in May.

March is too early for districts to know what funding they’ll get later in the year so many overestimate layoffs to cover their balance sheets.

That was the conclusion of a 2012 California’s Legislative Analyst Office report about the teacher layoff process. The office recommended better aligning the teacher layoff deadlines to the state budget process. State Senator Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, has authored a bill that would move the preliminary layoff deadline from March to June and the final deadline from May to August.

Even if they’re rescinded months later, layoff notices create uncertainty and disruption among teachers and students.

“When you’re rehired after a layoff notice most likely you could be transferred to a different grade level or different school site,” said Nash, of the Pasadena teacher's union.