In a vote held on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education approved layoffs for 485 teachers, administrators and other staff members employed by the San Francisco Unified School District.
The layoffs are largely owed to California's dire budgetary situation, which will result in the district losing $83 million in funding over the span of the next two years. If voters reject the tax increases supported by Governor Jerry Brown later this year, the shortfall could swell to $120 million.
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Due to uncertainty over the proposed tax increases, each San Francisco school was asked by the district to create two budgets--one for if the tax measure passes and one for if it fails.
By law, district officials are legally mandated to notify staff about the possibility of layoffs before March 15, making the meeting during which school officials approve massive firings a grim annual occurrence.
While the Board approves the layoffs each spring, the district in recent years has been saved from having to actually issue the vast majority of the threatened pink slips by an emergency transfusion of funds from the city's rainy day fund--something expected to happen again this year to the tune of $6 million, significantly less than what was distributed in previous years.
Even so, school officials expressed regret at having to approve the layoffs in the first place. "We hate having this meeting every year," Superintendent Carlos Garcia told the Examiner.
This annual ritual of the firing and rehiring of teachers happens every year all over the state. In 2010, nearly 30,000 California teachers received a pink slip informing them of the possibility of their termination at the end of the year.
Owing to contracts with the teachers union, SFUSD is required to base the decision of whom to fire entirely on seniority; however, in this case, teachers at just over a dozen schools in the Superintendent's Zones of the Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point will spared due to the city's push to bring up test scores these largely poor and minority communities.
Leaders of the teachers union criticized the board's decision, saying it would mean more layoff notices at struggling schools elsewhere in the city.
The school board does not have the final word on bypassing seniority rights. Under state law, that decision rests with an administrative law judge.
"I'm asking you to support all schools in need, not just the ones labeled in the zone," Megan Caluza, a teacher at El Dorado Elementary, told ABC-7. "That's not equitable and that's what you're asking for."
Also spared from getting the axe are teachers specializing in certain "high need" subject fields such as math, science and special education.
"The process is flawed in many ways--the state doesn’t pass a budget until June (or often later), and yet state law requires districts to notify employees in March if they might not have a job in August," the Bay Citizen noted that Board of Education commissioner Rachel Gordon wrote in a recent blog post. "Uncertainty is bad for individual employees, for the administrators who don’t know who will staff their classrooms in the coming year, and for students who don’t know if their teachers will be there for them when they come back after the summer."
The first round of pink slips are slated to go out on March 15.
Check out this video showing how the pink slip process affects young teachers in California: