A simple common sense change to the law requiring notification to teachers that their jobs might be in danger has to sidestep political opportunists who wouldn’t mind keeping the current law intact. Senator Bob Huff’s SB 559 would push back the date schools have to send warning notices to teachers informing them that they may be laid off because of budget shortfalls.
Currently, the law demands that the preliminary teacher pink slips be issued March 15. The idea behind the notification is that teachers and school staff are prepared for a lay off should the schools not have the budget to retain all its employees.
However, schools rarely know what their budgets will be by mid-March. School districts greatly rely on revenue from the state to establish their budgets. The state finances don’t come into focus until the April taxes are collected and the governor issues his May revision of the budget. Only in mid-May do the school districts understand the true budget possibilities.
The practice of issuing pink slips is costly to taxpayers. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the notices cost $706 per teacher. The exercise of issuing pink slips runs into the millions of dollars. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District sent more than 5,200 pink slips in 2011.
In most cases, the employees are not terminated.
Senator Huff says the legislation would not only save money that could be better spent in the classroom, but it would relieve the stress on teachers getting the pink slips and prevent scrambles to fill positions if teachers decide they better find other employment.
Huff’s simple solution would require that preliminary pink slips go out June 1 instead of March 15. The May revise will be out and the legislature will be two-weeks from the deadline to vote on the budget. There will be a better sense of state and school finances at that time.
In addition, the law would move back the date for final lay off notices to August 1 from May 15.
It all makes sense … except politics may prove to be a roadblock.
Advocates in support of more school funding are not ashamed to use the supposed threat of teacher layoffs to push their cause. The media dutifully reports the layoff notices adding another dimension to the political debate over taxes and spending.
The layoff notices have become part of some political campaigns. The threat of teacher layoffs is an emotional issue played out in California issue campaigns even though the layoffs rarely occur.
There is every good and practical reason that SB 559 should become law and one political reason why it could fail.