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California’s No Layoff Clause for Teachers

July 15, 2011

by Tom Meyer, Cartoonist

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go.  The manner in which Assembly Bill 114 was passed on the floor embodies what the public dislikes most about politics; sneaky back-room maneuvering, attempts to circumvent the established political process, and using the cover of darkness to push forth preferred policies.

That said, I wonder if someone in Sacramento is finally willing to do whatever it takes to stem the bleeding caused by three consecutive years of layoffs at schools like mine.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, embraced the bill during a Senate floor session. “If the charge is that we went out of our way to avoid (having) more teachers lose their jobs and avoid class size increases, guilty as charged,” he said.

To be sure, the manner in which the legislation was passed has brought a chorus of anti-union insults and offensive editorials and cartoons (in addition to the already well-established litany of criticisms against teachers and unions) but as a teacher in a school that has been shocked to the core due to three consecutive years of layoffs, I must say that this legislation is the happiest piece of news we have received in a long time.

You see there were close to two dozen unfilled positions in my public middle school in South Los Angeles when the school year ended.  This is in addition to the dozen layoffs last year, and two dozen the year before.  Unlike schools with more senior staffs, our teachers tend to be new and young, because only fools or saints voluntarily teach in South Central Los Angeles.  It is a hard to staff school, and even in a recession where teaching jobs are scarce, folks would rather go on unemployment than work in gang territory. I don’t agree with this, but then again, I may quite likely fall in the fool category.

Our school worked hard to cultivate a teacher-retention program that was wildly successful, but due to our success we did not qualify with the layoff protections afforded by the Reed settlement, which sought to protect high-poverty schools from teacher turnover by exempting them from layoffs.

We were punished for being successful.

My social studies department has been wiped out, with a full slate of open positions in need of filling.  The principal is interviewing on a daily basis, but in the meantime, our homegrown teachers who we trained, guided, and supported are sitting at home RIF’ed,  unable to plan a return due to their layoff.

Or, maybe this new legislation will allow them to return to work, and claim the positions that are shunned with contempt by others.

So is the cartoon above accurate?  Are kids being sold out in order to feed the greedy beast that is the teachers’ union?  At my school, students threw farewell parties, cried, and wrote letters to try to keep their teachers.  Students want to be taught by teachers who want to be at their schools, not those who are forced to work their against their will.  The students of Roy Romer Middle in the video below worked long and hard to get the same message across. It might behoove the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and Orange County Register to talk to students, just for a minute, before claiming to be their champions.

In this case, my thoughts are that although the process was shoddy, the spirit and intention of the legislation is a much needed reprieve for schools (students AND teachers) like mine.

RIF Now, Pay Later video by students and teachers at Roy Romer MS in Los Angeles.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Lenox permalink
    July 15, 2011 3:31 pm

    The author of the above cartoon as well as many of the critics of this legislation, seems to think that teachers go into a room by themselves for 6 hours a day. How it can be interpreted as giving to teachers while taking away from children is beyond me. Teacher working conditions are children’s learning environments. No layoffs mean smaller class sizes. No layoffs means positions are filled and programs and classes won’t be cut. It’s a simple as that, but it seems that some people are too simple-minded to figure that out.

  2. RSA@PHS permalink
    July 28, 2011 10:33 am

    My impression is that most who don’t work in schools don’t have any idea what actually goes on there. We, too, have been plagued by state-law mandated pink slips going out in February, only to have open positions in September and October, which are then filled by new teachers, or, if we’re lucky, but a teacher who was riffed, but was rehired. That teacher, however, will often not be as committed to spending extra time on initiatives such as school improvement, curriculum development, or staff development training. Why should they, since there’s a good probability they’ll be on the same roller coaster ride next year?


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