Published Online: October 27, 2009

Ariz. Official Warns of 'Massive' Teacher Layoffs

Arizona faces the prospect of large-scale layoffs of school teachers next year due to the state's budget problems, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Monday.

He said the "massive layoffs" of teachers are possible even though school districts' actual job cuts for the current school year fell short of reductions indicated by early layoff notices. The vast majority of those notices were rescinded, he said.

Horne's office said later Monday that Department of Education checks with school districts in August verified 2,990 layoff notices being issued last spring, of which 2,667 were recalled.

The department's figure on the number of layoff notices was short of counts made by other organizations last spring. Those included the Arizona Education Association's count through a survey of over 4,000 and the Arizona Republic's tally of 5,500.

A since-repealed state law required school districts to notify teachers by April 15 whether they'd be rehired. At the time, the state budget hadn't been approved so districts worried about the prospect of losing state funding issued many layoff notices.

The budget ultimately approved by the Legislature in August and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in September with some vetoes included few cuts in funding for K-12 schools.

However, Horne offered his assessment after a board member noted that the state now faces a projected $2 billion midyear budget shortfall and a $3 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year.

The situation is "much grimmer" than most Arizonans realize, Horne told the state Board of Education.

"I think the public will be very, very upset about that," he said, referring to the possibility of more teacher layoffs.

Board member Jaime Molera said Arizona should keep pushing accountability and achievement goals but consider relaxing some mandates on school districts to help find savings in the face of likely budget cuts.

The big shortfalls likely will prompt legislators to "take additional action even on the K-12 budget," said Molera, a former state superintendent.

Horne said his staff will work with Molera on reviewing the state's requirements.

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