Less than two months after Arizona school districts issued 7,000 pinks slips, in compliance with state regulations to notify employees whose contracts were not being renewed, some teachers are reclaiming their jobs. Though the state budget has not yet been passed, school officials say the budget shortfall will likely be $2.5 million less than expected and that retirements and resignations have opened up positions.
The superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, however, interprets the recalls differently: He claims that districts overestimated the budget deficit as a political move to prevent legislators from making deeper cuts to education. Republican legislators are also criticizing districts for causing undue panic among parents, some of whom may have been chased from the public schools into privates and charters. (There are no numbers to back this up.)
The teachers’ unions and districts are defending the initial layoffs.
This is all interesting follow-up to the story in March, when legislators were pushing to extend the layoff notification deadline until June 15 and the Arizona Education Association fought to keep it in April, asserting that laid-off teachers needed time to look for jobs. In my March post, I noted that the budget wouldn’t be passed by mid-June and an extension wouldn’t have saved any pink slips. Well, it’s only June 9—looks like I was mistaken.
Or was I? If the layoffs were a political play, would some districts, given an extension, have held off until the budget was passed in July to recall pink slips? Horne has said he expects that more recalls are on the way.
At this point, whether or not the game was being played seems inconsequential. The numbers will be out in the next few weeks. Laid-off teachers are waiting, and even if they are applying for other jobs, the market is still a disaster. They certainly won’t be moving to California anytime soon to look for openings. . .
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.