Posts Tagged ‘pink slips’

March! Who Gets a Layoff Notice?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

What a time to think about layoffs. March is disconcerting enough as I’m getting students ready to be good test takers a well as teaching curriculum. I’m also completing a thesis for my master’s degree before I graduate in May.

California elementary school

California elementary school

As a group, my students have learned to write better than I had hoped. My thesis included research in non-fiction writing and how students learn to write better essays when they read non-fiction. I spent writing time this year looking at non-fiction reading and writing techniques. When I examined the last essay, not only had most students used the strategies we had practiced, but some had learned other techniques that were not specifically taught. The project did not require a pre- and post- test; instead I used the standards taught in fourth grade. What an improvement I saw in student writing. I hope they remember next year. And I don’t have to worry about being laid off just as I succeed.

According to the news it must be March, at least for California education regulations. Notice of layoffs must be made by March 15. My district, one of about 990 in the state, has solved its pink slip furor. In this year of budget cuts (depending on what voters decide for initiatives in November 2012), not a single teacher is probationary in my district. If you were hired for this year, you understood from the first day that it was a temporary position and your job ends when the school year ends. In the district there are not even enough teachers for all the positions available, so after returning “leaves” are assigned, only new temporary workers will be added or rehired.

My district is unlike San Francisco schools where pink slips float down from the heavens. Take away the fourteen schools on the superintendent’s low-performance list.  New teachers willing to work in those low-performing schools under the guidelines set out to improve the academic success of students will not be laid off, no matter how low they fall on the seniority list. In a post written last year, schools in Los Angeles were allowed to keep teachers only after a lawsuit about unequal treatment of the students caused by layoffs of new teachers.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has put forth legislation to “lay off teachers at low academic schools at the same rate as others with higher rankings.” See the Editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle of Friday, March 2, 2012.

Which side do I stand on? Most teachers know that unions were started to stop administrators from giving arbitrary reasons for dismissal. Also so that teachers had influence on pay and health benefits.

But now I don’t think we should even hold arguments about layoffs. The California Teachers Association (CTA) needs to cut off such talk and come up with a solution.

After all, do you recall that working citizens have repeated in survey after survey that education is at the top of the list for California and every state in the union? However, when asked to provide funds, most often by taxation, the American people look the other way.

The Season of Pink Slips and School Budgets

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Spring approaches. Here in California, the cherry trees in the valley of orchards have already blossomed and died back, ready to set the fruit. My fourth grade class is moving onto the Spring curricular areas: rocks and minerals, local California Indian tribes, and study of the personal narrative composition.

The personal narrative, memoir of a specific event, is enjoyed by most of my students, as much as the difficult task of composing can be. Why not? Even at nine years old, they have plenty of memories of ‘the first time’, a fearful moment, and happy events. During the daily ‘teacher reads a good book out loud after lunch’, I’m reading passages from Fireflies, a great book to introduce the style of a good narrative.

As for me, my latest personal narrative doesn’t yet have an ending. On Monday we had a Cupertino Education Association union meeting. Of course, we wore red to stand by fellow union members in the infamous Wisconsin. Members signed up for a night of phone banking to get local voters to pass the extension of the local expiring parcel tax. It is one of the few ways to keep the schools from falling victim to the state’s school budget cutbacks necessary to balance the state budget.

Remember passage of parcel taxes still depends on 2/3 of the voters saying yes, and I shouldn’t say the district won’t fall victim even if the parcel tax extension passes. One hundred seventeen (117) district staff and teachers have received March 15 letters, notifying them that they are on the list of layoffs at the end of the school year.

The CEA lawyer has said to be sure to request a hearing about your position on the list, i.e., seniority. Some personnel are set aside on a separate layoff list, e.g., speech therapists and those with a single subject math credential. Layoffs depend on the service category each teacher belongs to. There may be an error.

All decisions depend on the passage of a state budget. The legislature still has not agreed on spending cuts, much less a special election in June to extend several taxes before they sunset.  Unlike some other states, notably Wisconsin, it is agreed by all that both spending cuts and tax extensions are in the mix.  How much is debated daily.

In Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 2011, the battle seems to focus on the five GOP state senators who have sat in on the governor’s ongoing talks to forge a budget deal. The five senators are pushing for spending cuts– regulation reforms, a cap on state spending, and changes to public employee pensions. They can’t get past blaming public employee unions for all problems, and that means me.

So, you see, my personal narrative about ‘times of anxiety’ has repeated every year for the past four years. I listen to arguments on the car radio that are far away from helping me help students learn; spend time on the phone urging for parcel taxes to save the district’s budget because the state’s legislators can’t resolve a budget deal; and at the same time keep on track in the classroom, making sure the curriculum is covered and standards are met. I received a pink slip.

Pink, Pink, Red, Pink

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

It’s February and that means everything is pink and red hearts and flowers on worksheets, corridor walls, and windows facing the playground.  Whether learning Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s famous poems for Black History Month or receiving tooth brushes to encourage every child to brush his teeth and keep his gums pink for Dental Health Month, it’s still cheery pink handouts that are taken home.

Looks like all is fine and dandy.

However, as my BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) consultant says when I ask for advice, it’s year 2 problems of which suddenly you are aware.  The first year was such a rush.  Now you worry about the girl who won’t finish her work and keeps begging for help without following the steps you’ve laid out and reviewed over and over to avoid this problem.  It seems I’ve tried every ‘trick’ in the book.  For instance, I ask how she’s feeling when I see her working well with her partners, but the one that has worked best is the old-time stickers on a card for specified behaviors that goes home weekly for reward time at the computer and so on.

I’ve mentioned the money difficulties for my district and they are not any better.  At every budget meeting, in fact, more funds disappear.  The second year teachers have all been told to expect “pink slips” and it’s only February.

I’ve been reading about the lickety-split passage of education legislation by the legislature in order to pick up federal funds as if $700 million is going to save California.  We know schools need every penny, but the teachers in my district have been warned that the money will not appear at our door.  Our students are high-achieving and most of the money is for the lowest of the low-performing schools.

It is amazing though.  My father passed on that an acquaintance in Los Angeles, well-versed in education issues, said that so many states have already revised their education legislation, it’s one of the biggest positive moves brought on by the Obama Administration in the past year.  I wonder how long before such news hits the media.  Or is it only the complainers who will be heard.

Still some of the legislation and some of the money will foster changes to teacher evaluation and changes to the pay structure I’m already used to.  Honestly, in these days of recession one advantage of teaching is a salary and benefits that can be counted on.

I know that several large school districts like Washington DC have had completely new evaluation plans handed out by the superintendent with no negotiations from the teacher’s union.  I can’t imagine that will happen in California.

There is, however, the plan to revise California standards and benchmarks which is a good idea.  But when we talk at lunchtime, we all know it will not be next year that the standards are ready or that evaluation changes will be negotiated, much less that pay will be determined by how high your evaluation ‘number’ is.  And who decides, the state, the district?  That’s a red hot issue.

June?  With the pink construction paper already gone from the supply room in February, is that an omen of where I’ll be?  One of 102 teachers from my school district standing in the unemployment office, laid off, pink slip in hand?

Money, Money, Money, Money

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I don’t know about every other one of the forty-nine states plus the District of Columbia, but in California, money budgeted for schools is the issue of the day-every day.

On April 17, Jack O’Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, gave a speech at an education conference in Irvine, California, and reported an estimate of 30 thousand pink slips had been sent out to teachers in the public schools, but with $3.1 billion in federal stimulus funds, he hoped that students would have teachers in the fall, whether or not the California budget crisis would be resolved in May special elections.

That very evening I heard a speech by Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, who said whatever other districts did, San Francisco was going to use rainy day reserves to make sure teachers weren’t laid off.

By the end of April, tempers were rising.  The California Poll (Mervin Field), results released April 29, 2009, predicted failure for the California special election on May 19 for propositions 1A and 1B which will determine the school budgets for next year.

Why?  Voters are skeptical that 1A will achieve its goals.  So, in an attempt to recoup some of school funding, the California Teachers Association insisted on 1B, but it will only be implemented if 1A also gets approved.

Confusion is widespread.  Another poll conducted the final week of April by the Public Policy Institute of California shows why.  Simply put, voters value education and want to see improvement, but currently they have a hard time seeing themselves pay for it.

Good luck as of May 6, about half of the allocated federal stimulus money was being disseminated in California, San Francisco Chronicle, “School districts’ stimulus millions,” May 6, 2009.  It will tide the schools over, but not provide the stable funding that schools need.  There is still more to be spent as seen in the chart displayed in the New York Times, May 13, 2009.

Then, at least in California, bad luck presented itself in the budget revisions forecasted if the special election proposals aren’t approved.  Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2009 and San Francisco Chronicle, May 14 and 15, 2009.

You haven’t paid attention to the doom and gloom?  It will be very dark when a possible $5.3 billion is cut from K-12 and community college budgets, not to mention the universities.  Besides, no more stimulus funds will be dispersed to ease the pain if the state budget is cut too deeply.

“Money makes the world go round”…or not.

Devil in the Details

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Just a glance at the websites for the White House and the Department of Education tell you big changes are emerging.  The sites affirm that students learn when teachers are retained-not laid off; that the day is long, the work is hard, and mentoring helps; that planning time can’t be ignored if reform is the goal.

As you’ve heard in the news, the sites declare the intention to improve early childhood education, high school graduation rates, student loans to help college attendance.  Sounds like the new administration is addressing the problems being flogged by various education blocs over the last eight years since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was authorized.

The biggest change is the amount of funding for programs mandated by NCLB, a highlight of the federal stimulus package (February 2009) as well as the federal budget legislation (March 2009).

Interesting that governors on behalf of state school boards, if they want the funds, must agree to assure certain provisions: improve the quality of standardized tests and raise standards; enforce the requirement that the most highly qualified teachers are assigned equably among all students, rich and poor.

If Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Barack Obama have been listening, why are so many in the education field upset?

The devil is in the details.

Some like Diane Ravitch in a mid-April post on the blog Bridging Differences, part of Education Week’s online magazine, say the administration is not doing enough to change NCLB faults (and there are many).   Dorothy Meier in the same blog says that there is national denial about the problem among voters as well as state governments.  The mantra is teachers are incompetent, unions are only thinking about pay, parents don’t care, public school districts waste money and so on.

On the other hand, Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in an article in the New York Times (April 15, 2009) is quoted as saying “They’re trying to do reform with teachers, not to them.”

In California, however, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) demonstrated at a school board meeting mid-April 2009, after 6000 teachers had been sent preliminary layoff warnings (pink slips).  The board members wanted to split the stimulus money over two years.  Only lay off 3000 school personnel next year?  How does that make sense?

And, on the NBC Nightly News, May 5, 2009, a short news clip outlined the problem with dividing up education stimulus funds among states based on existing government demographic formulas so that, for instance, Utah, which needs substantial additional funds, gets far less than Wyoming, which has a huge education budget already and spends much more ‘per pupil.’

It seems “how” changes are going to be designed and implemented bedevils the mind.

What have you heard in your state?