Teacher Layoffs Across The Nation

Only a few years ago, North Carolina was actively recruiting teachers from other states. Today, however, thousands of teachers across the state are receiving pink slips. On May 15, 2010, hundreds of teachers descended on the state capital, Raleigh, to protest proposed budget cuts that will lead to more teacher lay-offs. On June 3, Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Southern Durham High School with N.C. Governor Beverly Perdue. �I don’t have a Plan B,� he stated, �Plan B is children around the country getting hurt.� Duncan’s remarks reflect what some educators see as the coming educational apocalypse.
The Lay-Off Criteria for Teachers
Some school systems are laying off veteran teachers because their salaries are the highest. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, however, 75 of the 100 largest U.S. school districts use �seniority� as �the primary criterion for choosing who will be dismissed.�
The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, follows the policy of �last-hired, first fired.� Citing a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), Seyward Darby, writing in the New Republic, states that �poor and minority students�are disproportionately harmed by seniority-based layoffs.�

Darby found that some schools were using substitute teachers to replace full time educators, resulting in poorer student performance. Long term subs are far more cost effective than full time faculty. Massive teacher layoffs could result in a �temp teacher� market, paralleling a growing phenomenon in the business sector.
Gutting Programs and Expanding Class Size
In the Winston Salem Forsyth County School System in North Carolina the School Board voted in early June to eliminate foreign language classes in elementary schools. Throughout the state, 3,250 teacher assistants have already lost their jobs, according to the Raleigh News Observer (May 15, 2010).
In New York City, 11,000 teachers face the possibility of being layed off. According to Jennifer Medina, writing in the New York Times (January 29, 2010), New York City has not laid off teachers since 1976 and �Layoffs would hurt schools by increasing class sizes, which have already been inching up.� Generally, in most school systems, upper level courses like the Advanced Placement are taught by senior, veteran teachers. The elimination of younger, novice teachers will force senior teachers to teach basic and foundational classes. This could limit or even eliminate upper level classes.

Merit-Based Teacher Layoffs
New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, favors merit-based layoffs but must contend with powerful teacher unions (see Times article). But this is not the case in states and districts where no unions exist, such as North Carolina. Although there are teacher associations, they do not have the standing of labor unions. Thus, some districts, unencumbered by unions, are looking at merit-based barometers in terms of teacher layoffs, such as in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Other systems are considering eliminating layoff-proof tracks that, traditionally, have included Masters Degrees and National Board Certification. Some systems have stopped the practice of paying National Board Certification fees. In the Forsyth County, N.C. School Board case, layoff criterion discussions included teacher evaluations and suspensions.
The Future of Teaching in America
Secretary Duncan’s �Plan B� may become the future of American education. Desperate states competed for money through the federal Race to the Top initiative but there is only $3.4 billion available. Educators want a federal bail-out, something Congress is not inclined to pass. High deficits, primary election results, and the fear of Republicans gaining control of Congress in November have scared legislators into a mode of budget cuts.
Most political analysts believe that Congress will not appropriate any new funds to bail out American education. This will mean thousands of teacher layoffs and the continued weakening of public instruction.

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