By Mike Myslinski
John Dalton (left)
Like thousands of California educators last fall, Bay Area teacher Quyen Bullard worked hard to pass the governor’s Proposition 30 on the November ballot. Now the school funding measure is working for her.
Prop. 30 dramatically reduced the number of preliminary pink slips that California school districts issued by the state’s annual March 15 deadline. Bullard was overjoyed she did not receive a dreaded layoff notice — as she has for three out of the past four years.
“I am ecstatic!” said Bullard, a seventh-grade teacher in the New Haven Unified School District in Union City. “All the pressure is off. I don’t have to worry about whether I have a job for next year.”
On maternity leave now, she and her husband celebrated the birth of their second child March 29.
Her district went from about 100 pink slips last year to none this year. Bullard credits the “big role of Proposition 30” in giving districts more budgeting stability for the reduced number of RIF (reduction in force) notices.
Approximately 3,300 pink slips went out to educators in mid-March, compared with about 20,000 last year, according to CTA research. By law, school districts have until May 15 to make decisions on teacher layoffs, but many districts were able to budget and plan ahead because of Prop. 30. It prevented nearly $6 billion in devastating cuts to education this school year.
“If the governor’s Proposition 30 had not passed, California’s public schools would have been rocked by an avalanche of pink slips,” says CTA President Dean E. Vogel.
“Instead, we are seeing far fewer layoff notices, and that’s great news for our students and teachers. We still have a long way to go to heal our schools from billions in cuts suffered in recent years.”
Teachers Rosario Ruiz in Sacramento and John Dalton in Alameda were reminded just how far the state still has to go when they received their pink slips.
“It’s not a good feeling to not know whether you will have a job or not,” says Ruiz, a second-grade teacher in the Sacramento City Unified School District, which issued 118 pink slips. “You think you are safe, and then it happens again.”
She is in her seventh year teaching in the district — still not long enough to escape the layoff process. “You just have to make the best of it and keep teaching.”
That’s what John Dalton is doing as he copes with the stress after getting his pink slip at Alameda High School in the Bay Area, where he chairs the career technical education department. He was one of about 18 educators who got the notices from the Alameda Unified School District.
“It’s insulting and it’s scary,” he says. “You can’t really plan anything.”
Dalton began teaching five years ago and has received layoff notices a few times now. His hardship may be related to California ranking 49th in the nation in per-pupil public education spending.
Prop. 30 won’t make public schools whole overnight. But by raising taxes on the wealthy for seven years and increasing the statewide sales tax a quarter of a cent for four years, Prop. 30 will generate about $42 billion for public schools and local public safety needs over seven years. It means the state can start paying back some of the funds owed to public schools. In the past four years, more than $20 billion in education funding was cut or deferred, and the state lost more than 30,000 teaching jobs.
The state’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, issued no teacher pink slips this time, but combined for more than 11,000 notices last year.
Final pink slip data was still trickling in to CTA at press time; 154 school districts had reported 3,280 educator pink slips.
The 10 California school districts reporting the most layoff notices are: Los Angeles County Office of Education, 213; San Bernardino City School District, 166; Sacramento City Unified, 118; San Francisco Unified, 118; Pomona Unified, 108; Twin Rivers Unified, 100; Mt. Diablo Unified, 95; Stockton Unified, 95; Pasadena Unified, 81; Alum Rock Elementary, 80.