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So much pink, so few layoffs (probably)

For all of the people who tried to attend the Oakland school board’s special budget meeting tonight and anyone else who missed the presentation, here’s the upshot:

The Oakland school district is bracing for a 16 percent cut in state general purpose funding for 2011-12. That amounts to $844 per student, or $30.5 million, rather than $349 per student, or $12.6 million, as previously thought. Not a small difference. But the district’s staff’s “best thinking” for making ends meet under that scenario does not call for additional cuts at schools, school closures or furloughs.

What it does entail is a whole lot of one-time funds taken from the state loan, adult education programs, and additional reserves. And, as a result, a much larger structural deficit — $22 million, rather than $7 million — and more cuts down the line. You can find the presentation here.

On layoffs:

As many of you know well, OUSD sent 657 teachers (in 538 full-time positions) notices that their jobs were at risk. But the data from the school-based budgeting process just came in, and a total of 137 teaching positions have been eliminated.

Then you have the 106 early retirees and the 16 untenured teachers who were dismissed, or “non re-elected.” Not to mention the people who are about to resign, but haven’t yet. The 101 teachers working on temporary contracts — some, with full teaching credentials and masters degrees — would be the first to go, though board members expressed interest in trying to keep them if there are open positions.

I’m no HR specialist, but it seems to me that final layoff notices for permanent, k-12 teachers should be few and far between. Staff said the decisions would likely be made by April 15.

Board member Jody London said it was important that pink-slipped teachers know as soon as possible if their jobs are safe, even if the district notifies them in stages, starting with the most senior. “If we know now that we’re not going to be issuing as many layoffs … I would like to see us move much sooner, rather than later, to let those people know,” she said.

Brett “Opus” Wilson, an ASCEND teacher, read a statement from his principal, Larissa Adam, to that effect:

Her recommendation to the board is that you immediately rescind all unnecessary layoffs and recognize that the best teachers in their fourth and fifth years are being offered jobs right now. We cannot wait until May 15. The numbers are clear. We don’t need to lay them off.

Layoffs of classified staff — school security officers, clerks and custodians — are expected to come at the end of the month.

I consumed so much more data this evening, from teacher retention data to consultant expenditures, but that will just have to wait for another day. Good night!

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • TheThruthHurts

    I don’t think schools have nearly enough funding, but how far can this can be kicked?

  • Starshaped

    I think what we can take from this is that most pink slips will be rescended this year but there will be school closures next year. The district needs to look at the small schools housed on the same campus and consolidate first into either larger schools or with less administration and the affliated cost of running two schools on one campus. There are schools that manage nearly 500 students with only 1 principal. Managing two schools with 200 each, shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. In addition, it would allow more grade level teachers to work together to improve their practice. I don’t think neighborhood schools should be closed because that is counter productive to making schools the hub of community and make it harder for parents to get their kids to school each day.

    The issue we, as a community and as citzens of California, need to look at is progressive taxation, Prop 13 split rolls, or a tax on off shore drilling (or a combination of those). That is the only way we are going to be able to prosper as a state. Cutting education and services is not acceptable and we need to stand up and tell the powers that be just that.

  • AlgebraTeacher

    I agree with the statement that “Her recommendation to the board is that you immediately rescind all unnecessary layoffs and recognize that the best teachers in their fourth and fifth years are being offered jobs right now. We cannot wait until May 15.” I know a lot of teachers, myself included, who have been searching or have found other jobs because we aren’t going to gamble with unemployment. OUSD will lose some good teachers this year because of this mess.

    Also, notice they are using one time state funds, meaning this mess will likely happen again next year.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Starshaped:

    I agree with you about not cutting education and services. I assume by services you are referring to the “safety net” of social services to our students and their parents that might be unemployed as more and more jobs are cut.

    However, with Republicans holding out against funding of existing services, I don’t see anything happening than perhaps more borrowing to close the budget gap. More borrowing serves to increases the gap in years to come.

    To break out of this frustrating situation, I suggest that the union leadership send to the ballot a progressive taxation package they can agree on that will close the existing gap and balance the budget for the next two years. Certainly unions have capacity to get such a progressive tax package to the ballot.

    Those that hate unions can vote their emotion. Those that support unions can vote their emotion. And, those that have no emotional ties to either group can decide if they want to end the instability and bring economic peace to California or not.

    The legislature is gridlocked but unions working together have the capacity to put on the ballot a progressive tax package that could end the cuts.

    If you belong to a union, suggest to your union leadership that they back creating a labor coalition that will put on the ballot a “progressive” tax package that will close the existing State budget gap.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Steve Neat

    Dear Oakland Community,

    At Kaiser School 4 out of 11 teachers have received RIF notices (a.k.a. pink slips). That’s the last time I’m going to mention my school, however, because this is not about any one school, it’s about all the schools, all the students, and all the teachers of Oakland. We cannot let the powerful and wealthy in our city and in our state—or their puppets—use California’s revenue problems to divide and conquer. For example, there are some who want to wave the red cape of seniority at us in our rage, frustration, and sorrow over the impact of RIFs on our school sites. There is even talk of flouting—or at best twisting—state law to disregard seniority to make the lay-offs more “equitable.” How can we possibly make 538 lay-offs equitable? Shall we lay-off 5 teachers from every school? Since we have about 110 schools in OUSD, then that would be one way to be equitable. I want each and every one of you to close your eyes and picture the staff at your site. Which 5 would you pick? A school is often a magical place where students, teachers, parents, and administration build deep and lasting bonds in the name of education. However, we cannot simply hope to shift the blow away from our own wonderful school where we have become part of a local community. We must stand together—all of us—as the community of Oakland, to demand that every single RIF notice be rescinded. These lay-offs are not an issue of beginning teachers vs. veteran teachers. Nor are they an issue of hills schools vs. flatlands schools. Nor are they an issue of teachers and schools whose students did well on the CST last year vs. teachers and schools whose students did not do as well. This is an issue of students and teachers vs. consultants and outside contractors. This is an issue of students and teachers vs. downtown administration. This is an issue of students and teachers vs. leaders who are not willing to take a courageous stand against untenable cuts to the classroom. I urge GO Public Schools, OUSD administration, all Oakland teachers, students, and parents, and the entire Oakland community to stand together against all budget cuts at the state level, while continuing to demand at the local level that cuts be kept completely away from the classroom.
    For the children of Oakland,
    Steve Neat,
    5th grade teacher,
    OEA Officer

    P.S. In an effort to advocate for my colleagues and their students, and to educate teachers and the Oakland community, this will be the first of seven brief pieces in a series entitled Real Issues vs. Seniority. They will be disseminated on the following dates: 04/07, 04/14, 04/20, 04/26, 04/30, 05/03, and 05/07. Stay tuned for next week’s edition: “RBB”

  • J.R.

    Why do most people want to evade the issues we are confronted with?

    1. Too many small schools, and staff for each one.

    2. Not as much tax revenue as in the past(due to the economy), so naturally there are going to be cut backs. Although there never is a commensurate cut in taxpayer funded benefits.

    3. We are forced to reduce staff, and logically it would make sense to keep the most effective teachers (staff)and not necessarily the longest serving.

    4. The priority in funding should be the classroom, but the classroom(teacher pay and benefits)are the largest expenditure of the budget(and education is the largest part of California’s budget.

    The issue here is limited funds and how best to use them. If you could get the tax money devouring public sector workers to show a little restraint we just might survive this pending catastrophe.

    Seniority is a big hinderance to doing things the best way possible for the children whether or not you believe it(as parents we see evidence of it every day, and we discuss it). Now we are doing something about it from one end of the country to the other. Our kids deserve no less, and we will not apologize for it because we pay the bills.

  • ousd_funemployed

    This confuses me. How can the District mail out over 500 pink slips but continue to post for open teaching positions? And why would anyone accept a job offer from a company that is laying off over 500 people in the same position I’m being hired into (based on length of service, no less)?

    http://www.simplyhired.com/job-id/opr2bg5hqn/teacher-8th-jobs/

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    We both agree that American people want to “evade the issues we are confronted with”. And, I assume we both agree the government debt from the financial meltdown and three wars needs to be paid.

    But, I also assume we differ on the means of paying. For I believe America does not want to confront the class war issue. The rich and powerful are making America’s middle class pay a greater portion of the finance and war debt while cutting programs for the poor and unemployed.

    Ending seniority means that the financial pressure to cut more expensive senior staff will likely dominate. And, of course there are senior workers that should be cut before inexpensive workers, but flipping the first in to first fired, to last in first fired, does not logically improve the system but means that inexperienced workers that should be cut will now be retained instead.

    The issue is not really seniority and dismissing workers but failure to fully fund the education system with taxpayers’ dollars.

    Jim Mordecai