| This time last year, in the wake of the Legislature's decision to slash $9 billion from the K-12 education budget, schools sent out nearly 30,000 layoff notices to teachers. In the end, most of those teachers were indeed laid off, though a significant number were rehired on one-year temporary contracts. Federal stimulus funds helped make that happen, but even so, the impact to schools was devastating. Class sizes have soared, some districts have closed entire schools (such as the elementary school three blocks from my apartment), and others have gone to a 4-day week.
With no renewal of federal stimulus funds for education in sight, and with the prospect of further education cuts at the state level, districts are gearing up again to make mass teacher layoffs. SF schools plan to fire 10% of their teachers and support staff:
District officials said the list is long given the mind-boggling $113 million budget shortfall expected over the next two years, a deficit requiring huge cuts to staffing and programs. It includes full-time and part-time employees representing nearly 800 full-time teaching and administrative positions for the most part. It doesn't include such workers as clerks or school secretaries, who don't have to be notified by the deadline.
Sacramento area schools face similar cuts particularly in the absence of federal stimulus dollars:
Understandably, the federal stimulus money was a godsend to the districts. Elk Grove Unified - the area's largest district - used $26 million of its $39.5 million in stimulus funds to save the jobs of teachers, counselors, library technicians, vice principals and administrative assistants.
Officials from Sacramento City Unified spent about half of the district's $43.3 million share to save jobs. The district spent another $1.5 million to keep Mark Hopkins Elementary open for another year and nearly the entire balance to offset other budget reductions.
Twin Rivers Unified School District reported saving 109 teaching jobs with some of its $19 million in stimulus funds. San Juan Unified School District spent at least $19 million of its $34.5 million to retain positions.
So far the Obama Administration has not yet moved to extend or even expand the education stimulus funds. And despite polling that shows Californians would pay higher taxes to avoid these cuts, so far nobody has yet come forward to propose following Oregon's lead and taxing the rich and large corporations in order to avoid the destruction of our schools.
The collapse of California's education system is going to generate more and more attention and activism over the coming year, as it hits a broad cross-section of California very hard. It therefore creates a political opportunity for progressives to act to restore our schools and ensure our children have a future in this state.