YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Scores of Teachers Statewide Receive Layoff Notices

Cuts are less than feared and may be rescinded as districts refine budget projections.

May 16, 2003|Duke Helfand, Erika Hayasaki and Claire Luna | Times Staff Writers

Several thousand teachers across California received layoff notices Thursday from financially strapped school districts seeking to cut red ink.

As many as 3,000 pink slips, and perhaps more, were handed out by school systems in Orange County, Pasadena, Oceanside, Sacramento, San Francisco and elsewhere -- although the numbers were far smaller than original estimates and many may be rescinded in the summer as districts get a better handle on their revenues.

About 30,000 of California's estimated 300,000 teachers were warned in March that their jobs could be in jeopardy next school year. But the figure for actual layoff notices dwindled by Thursday's deadline because districts received a somewhat brighter financial picture from the state and had cut nonteaching spending, including transportation, maintenance and athletic programs. In addition, some districts are hoping private fund-raising and proposed parcel taxes will improve the situation by the time students return in the fall.

There was no central clearinghouse for data on the teacher layoffs from the state's more than 1,000 districts, but union leaders and education experts said they expected the number to reach several thousand and that any full count would take several weeks. An informal survey of districts suggested a number of 2,000 to 3,000 layoff notices. Districts abided by seniority rules that target the newest teachers first, but with so much money to be trimmed, even veteran teachers were vulnerable.

Those teachers who received pink slips Thursday struggled to cope with the numbing prospect of being unemployed in the fall -- and possibly leaving the profession to sustain themselves.

"I have to feed my family," said David Quinonez, a mathematics teacher at Alameda High School near Oakland for the last five years.

"At this point I have lost my job, so my quandary here is what do I do?" he said. Quinonez, a father of two, said he may have to return to his former job as a handyman, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, to make ends meet.

At Morris Elementary in Cypress, two second-grade teachers and a fourth-grade teacher received final layoff notices Wednesday. Since receiving the first layoff notice in March, second-grade teacher Jeannie Pak has applied to eight school districts but hasn't heard from any.

She'll probably go to graduate school to get a master's degree in education. She said some of her peers plan to move out of state, where they have heard that the teaching job market is better, but she doesn't want to leave her Southern California roots.

Pak, a second-year teacher, said she wasn't surprised when her principal called her in to give her the final layoff notice: "It was sort of like putting a period at the end of a sentence."

Other teachers whose jobs had been in jeopardy experienced relief to learn they would not be laid off.

Among them is Katie Renger, 24, a first-year world history teacher at Foothill High School in Ventura. When district officials told her she would probably lose her job, she said she resigned herself to becoming a waitress or an advanced paper filer to wait out the crisis until she could return to the classroom. But after buying a house in October, she felt the extra stress of uncertainty, she said.

Now things have turned around for the better.

"My principal came into my room after school to tell me," she said. "I just jumped on him, with a huge hug, screaming, 'Thank you! Thank you!' It was such a huge relief."

Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Assn. union, said he expected many of the layoffs to be rescinded because of staff attrition and enrollment growth. "It's going to be pretty much business as usual in September when all the hoopla is said and done," he said. "Count then how many teachers lose their jobs. I think it's going to be very few."

More than 220 Orange County teachers received final layoff notices this week, most of them from Capistrano and Newport-Mesa Unified. More than 850 preliminary layoff notices were sent to county teachers in mid-March, with districts including Tustin, Laguna Beach and La Habra City able to rescind most or all of them.

In addition to the teachers notified this week, more than 500 temporary teachers from several other districts may not have their contracts renewed this fall, district officials said.

But even where the number of layoffs was reduced, the anticipated losses felt like a blow for many districts under pressure to attract qualified teachers and raise test scores with dwindling resources.

Fewer teachers will lead to larger class sizes, especially in middle schools and high schools, they said.

Los Angeles Times Articles