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More than 20,000 California teachers pink-slipped

March 20, 2012

More than 20,000 California teachers pink-slipped.

Well, this is an utter travesty in the great state of California.  I have not lived in California for my entire life, not even for half of my life, but I have to admit the simple fact that I love this state and I root for it every chance I get.

We have incredibly beautiful coasts, mountains, redwoods, and yes, deserts.  We have a very health conscious population, we have incredible weather, we are the envy of many states in this country.  Is life easy in California?  No, it isn’t – it isn’t easy simply because there is never a shortage of people looking to be here – so there is a lot of competition for jobs, homes, and for everything else quite frankly.

When I see articles like this one (linked above) in the San Francisco Chronicle written by Jill Tucker, I have to shake my head in dismay.  We need to INCREASE our tax base and get rid of Prop 13 which holds down property taxes which are used in most states to fund education…but not here.  In CA we are open to the boom and bust cycles of sales tax revenues flowing to Sacramento.  In good times (Housing Bubble years) we were flush, now in lean times we are busted, we need a system that protects us from the feast or famine cycle I just described.

More than 20,000 public school teachers in California opened their mailboxes over the last few days to find a pink slip inside as districts met the state’s Thursday deadline for dispensing the dreaded news to the educators that they may not have a job in the fall.The layoff notices are preliminary, the districts’ best guess at the amount of money they will get to educate kids next year after the Legislature concludes its annual budget fight this summer. But a proposed tax measure on the November ballot offers more uncertainty than usual.Districts won’t know until two months into the new school year whether voters will approve a tax increase that would prevent a $4.8 billion trigger cut to education funding, as proposed in the governor’s budget.

That cut would be about $807 per student, the equivalent of 55,000 teacher layoffs or 17 days of school, according to The Education Coalition, representing 2.5 million teachers, parents, administrators, school boards and other school employees.Though the very future of our state depends on California’s teachers … (they) will now spend months in limbo, worrying about their futures and the future of their students,” state Superintendent Tom Torlakson in a statement.The layoff notices were sent to teachers, librarians and others in schools all over California.

Not many districts found a way to skirt the deadline.San Francisco sent out 500 layoff notices.In Los Angeles, 11,000 were sent.About 700 were mailed in Sacramento.Every school librarian in Union City got one, along with 100 teachers, administrators and other school staff.Oakland Unified avoided having to send out the notices because administrators found a way to balance its budget through attrition, prior elimination of adult education, across-the-board cuts at school sites, school mergers and closures, as well as other program cuts.

Disgruntled public

As the pink slip deadline approached, the mood in dozens of districts across the state reflected a growing public impatience with budget cuts to education. Parents protested, teachers rallied, and three students in San Leandro held a weeklong hunger strike to draw attention to the cost to classrooms.In years past, many of the layoff notices issued by the March 15 deadline have been rescinded because of concessions from labor unions, changes to the state’s revenue outlook or successful parcel tax measures. This year, the tax measure in particular makes it unclear how much wiggle room districts will have.In the meantime, there are tough decisions to make.At Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco, parent Crystal Brown said the school had to choose between losing a reading specialist to help struggling students or all the paper, pencils, erasers, paper towels, toilet paper, paint, scissors, crayons and other supplies the school would need next year.“We were making decisions that were ridiculous,” said Brown, president of Educate Our State, a parent group formed to support public education in California.

Banding together

Brown’s group organized a Thursday morning protest called “This budget blows.” Parents and children at 60 schools in 40 cities blew bubbles to illustrate their point.“Parents from all different cities and towns across the state are saying we’re not happy,” Brown said.Educate Our State also launched a letter-writing campaign to ask legislators to make education funding a top concern. Within six hours Thursday, 1,500 letters were sent.The voices for the schools across the state are getting louder, Brown said.

Union City layoffs

In Union City, parents and teachers wore pink T-shirts this week in solidarity with the 100-plus teachers, custodians, librarians and other workers who received layoff notices.Since 2008, the district has lost 14 percent of its teachers, 23 percent of administrators and 13 percent of other staff.Another 100 would be unimaginable, district officials said.“Much of what teachers, parents and this community have worked to build up the past 30 years – the magic and the promise of our schools – will be gone when students return to their classrooms in the fall,” said Charmaine Banther, president of the New Haven Teachers Association in Union City.She said the number of school employees who received notices is numbing. “There are students behind every one of these folks.”

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