By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Ben Swearingen, Southwest Teachers Association, 3 years.
Last year, 10,000 California teachers received RIF (reduction in force) notices, and of these 5,000 were laid off. This year could be worse.
More than 27,000 pink slips were sent out by the March 13 deadline. While it is too early to tell how many will be rescinded, the perception among school analysts is that the harsher economic climate that prevails this year will play a critical role.
This year's cuts — on top of last year's — will run deep in many districts. There are fewer temporary positions, electives and enrichment programs on the chopping block since many districts have already made cuts in these areas.
The federal stimulus money — an estimated $7.8 billion for California education — may partly alleviate this dire situation. Half of the money, however, will not reach the state for another six months, and school districts may act cautiously without money in hand.
A district can lay off permanent and probationary teachers during the time period between the enactment of the budget and Aug. 15 if the school board determines that its total revenue limit per unit of ADA has not increased by at least 2 percent and that it is necessary to decrease the number of permanent employees (Education Code section 44955.5). And due to the current, poor economic climate, more districts might need that 2 percent threshold.
CTA, however, does not believe that districts can disregard the specific layoff procedure by waiting until after the official deadline date and will challenge instances where that occurs.
CTA's Legal Department has posted a RIF Manual ("The Layoff Survival Guide") in the MyCTA section of CTA's website. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about RIF notices.
What immediate action should I take if I receive a pink slip?
If you receive a layoff notice, contact your CTA chapter right away. If you are a member, CTA will advise you regarding the steps you should take to ensure that your rights are protected during the layoff process. If you are an agency fee payer, join CTA now so that CTA can represent you in the layoff process.
Make sure that all of your credentials and certifications are on file with the school district — especially certifications to teach English learners.
How do I figure out my seniority?
Collect the documents you need to prove your hiring date. The general rule is that your seniority date is your first day of paid service as a probationary employee ("PROB"). There are three important exceptions:
Your prior year of service as a temporary or substitute teacher will count as your first year of service as a PROB if you served as a temporary or substitute teacher for at least 75 percent of the school year and you were re-elected to fill a vacant position the next year. So, for example, if you worked 75 percent of the 2006-07 school year as a temporary or substitute teacher, and were re-elected to fill a vacant position this year, your prior year of service counts as your first year as a PROB and your seniority date would be your first day of paid service in the 2006-07 school year.
Your prior year of service in a categorical position will count as your first year of service as a PROB if you served in the categorical position for at least 75 percent of the school year and were subsequently employed by the district as a PROB in a position requiring certification. So, if you worked 75 percent of the 2006-07 school year in a categorical position, and were employed this year by the district as a PROB, your seniority date would be your first day of paid service in the 2006-07 school year.
Remember that your first day of paid service may not be the first day of school. If you were paid to attend an in-service day before the beginning of school, that day should count as your first paid day of service. On the other hand, if you did not start work until after school started, your first paid day of service will be the day you actually started working for pay, not the day that school started.
Do I have bumping rights?
You have the right to "bump" any junior employee who is retained to render a service that you are both "certificated and competent" to provide. If you seek to teach a subject that you have not previously taught and for which you are not credentialed or which was not your major area of postsecondary study, the school district will require that you pass a subject matter competency test before assigning you to teach that subject. If you have the same seniority date as another employee, the school district will decide how to rank you on the layoff list based on criteria it chooses reflecting "the needs of the district and the students thereof." The district must provide you with the criteria it is using for this purpose and its application in ranking you among other employees with the same seniority date.
The district may also deviate from the order of seniority if the district demonstrates "a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study" and that the more junior employee "has special training and experience necessary to teach that course or course of study."
What are my rehire rights as a teacher?
As a permanent teacher you have the right to be rehired in order of seniority if, at any time within 39 months of the layoff, the number of employees is increased or the service that was discontinued leading to your layoff is re-established. For probationary teachers this period is within 24 months of layoffs. If you seek to teach a subject you have not previously taught, and for which you do not have a teaching credential or in which you did not major, you must pass a subject matter competency test in the appropriate subject.
The district may refuse to rehire in seniority order if it demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study, and shows that the more junior employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course or course of study, which the more senior employee does not possess.
If you are rehired, the period of the layoff will not be considered a break in service and will not count toward STRS credit. At any time prior to the completion of your first year of service after rehire, you can continue or make up your contributions to STRS for the period during which you were laid off. You may waive your rehire rights for a period of up to a year without losing the right to subsequent offers of rehire.
You have the right to temporary and substitute positions, again in order of seniority, while you are waiting to be rehired into a permanent position.
Am I eligible for unemployment insurance?
Employees who are laid off or who are not re-elected are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, a probationary employee who resigns effective the end of the school year, after being given the choice to resign or be non-re-elected, is also eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
File immediately after your last day of work. There is a one-week unpaid waiting period. The fastest and most convenient way to file a claim is online at www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/filing_a_claim.htm. You can receive a regular benefit up to a maximum of $450 a week depending on your past earnings, plus $25 a week in federal stimulus payment. If you file in May or June 2009, your benefit amount will be calculated on the highest quarter in the base period of the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2008.
You may receive these benefits for a maximum of 59 weeks if you remain unemployed for that long. Twenty-six of these weeks are regular benefits, and you may be eligible for an additional 33 weeks due to the federal extension of unemployment insurance benefits. You must re-apply for the federal extension in the same manner as your original application.
Can I maintain my health insurance?
As a general rule, if you are laid off, your health insurance coverage will continue through Aug. 31 if you worked the entire school year. Make sure to check with your CTA chapter to confirm the date that your health insurance coverage will terminate. After that date, if your school district has more than 20 employees, you can choose to continue your health insurance coverage for up to 18 months under the federal COBRA Act. If your school district has fewer than 20 employees, you may be able to continue your health insurance under California's mini-COBRA Act.
Within 90 days of your termination from employment or of a reduction in hours of employment resulting in you losing employer-paid health coverage, the district must notify you of your right to continue your health coverage under COBRA. You have the right to continue the same health insurance coverage that you had as an employee including any coverage you carried for your spouse or dependents. You are obligated, however, to pay a portion of the premium to maintain coverage. For more details, see the Layoff Survival Guide.
Can I remain a CTA member?
CTA members who are laid off can maintain their membership, and thereby continue to enjoy most of the benefits of CTA membership including legal representation through the Group Legal Services program. They can continue to participate in the majority of Member Benefits programs, including auto and home insurance, financial services, and the discount programs.
Each member has unique circumstances that determine the status of their life and/or disability insurance eligibility and affect the continuation or termination of their coverage through the CTA-endorsed plans provided by The Standard. If you are covered under CTA's endorsed life or disability products, you are encouraged to contact The Standard's dedicated CTA Customer Service Department at (800) 522-0406 (TTY), 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., for all of your questions.
In order to maintain your membership, you will need to pay Category 3A dues, which are approximately one quarter of the dues paid by full-time members. In 2008-09, for example, Category 3A dues for teachers are $164.75 for CTA, $47.25 for NEA, and the amount of local dues determined by your local. To maintain your membership, contact your CTA chapter to find out the local dues amount, as well as how and when you should pay your dues. You can also contact CTA Membership for information at (650) 552-5278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions regarding your member benefits, please contact CTA Member Benefits at (650) 552-5200.
What are my prospects for future employment in my field?
It's true that many districts are cutting 10 percent of their teaching staff. However, about a third of the state's teachers are now over 50 and will be eligible to retire within the next seven years, says Margaret Gaston, president of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. So it is entirely possible that districts will be desperate to hire teachers to replace retirees within the next few years.
"We will have a baby boomer retirement wave, and we already have a drop in teacher preparation programs along with a drop in the numbers of preliminary credentials issued," says Gaston. "California still has 6 million children to educate. When the state begins to lift out of these really dire and tragic conditions facing schools and districts, will we have an adequate pool of teachers which districts can draw on to replace teachers who are retiring? We don't know the answer to that."
Tips for coping if you or a friend has been RIF’d
How can I finish out the year in a positive way for myself and my students? If you’ve been pink-slipped, it is probably a reflection of the poor economy, not your skills or abilities. Below are copingsuggestions offered by Dr. John Grohol.
- Remember that layoffs aren’t personal, although they often feel like they are.
- Being upset is normal, but keep your emotions in check and remember that the workplace is not a good place to express negative emotions. If you need to vent, do so with close friends, family or a therapist outside of work.
- Get references right away. Don’t put it off.
- Don’t put off being realistic with your finances and your own personalbudget.
- Stay positive as much as possible, and keep an optimistic spirit. Set realistic job goals (sending out résumés, replying toclassifieds, etc.) and stick to them.
I did not receive a pink slip, but what do I say to colleagues who have?
Even if you are not sure what to say, the worst thing you can do is say nothing to a colleague who has been pink-slipped, says Kayleen Schaefer of the Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t know what to say” or “I’m very sorry” are good ways to express support for a laid-off colleague. Don’t feel that you have to offer them solutions. If you are close to someone who has been issued a pink slip, let them know you are there for them and offer moral support or help if you are able to give it.
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