San Francisco school district prepares to lay off 900 workers

By Oliver Richards
27 February 2010

On February 23, the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to notify more than 900 school employees that they could be laid off this year. This is almost double the 500 workers that were notified about layoffs last year.

The 900 employees include 318 full-time teachers, 139 teacher aides, 109 instructional support staff, 98 principals and assistant principals, 22 counselors, and 10 librarians. The teacher layoffs amount to about 10 percent of the entire staff.

A town hall meeting in San Francisco organized by parents on Thursday drew more than a thousand parents, teachers and residents, overwhelmingly opposed to school cuts. In addition to laying off teachers, the district has also proposed increasing class sizes, reducing bus services and cutting summer school programs.

According to California law, school districts must notify teachers who may be laid off by March 15. Other workers and staff do not have to be notified in advance, and the number of total layoffs could grow. While many layoffs were rescinded for workers last year, this was because the city was able to provide the district with $24 million from its "rainy day fund"; next year, city hall will only be providing $6 million.

“Many of the layoffs [in the past] have been rescinded within a few weeks,” said school board member Jill Wynns. “This year, it’s going to be different.”

The school district is currently facing a budget shortfall of $113 million over the next two years. The city is determined to balance this deficit on the backs of working people. In addition to the layoffs and school cuts, the city is seeking major concessions from transit workers. (See "San Francisco transit workers reject concessions contract".)

The massive layoff announcements are intended in part to escalate pressure on teachers to accept contract concessions to "save jobs." Teachers may also be offered $4,300 as an incentive for early retirement. In this way, the district is seeking to shed more experienced and better paid teachers.

The United Educators of San Francisco teachers union has already indicated that it is willing to push concessions through, saying only that it wants district officials to demonstrate that the budget shortfalls require layoffs and further cuts. Superintendent Carlos Garcia says that some $44 million dollars in cuts will come from labor contracts.

The layoff notices being sent out to San Francisco educators come on the heels of the 755 pink slips that were passed out to school workers in Long Beach, California. (See "Long Beach, California school board approves 755 layoff notices".)

Other districts in California will be announcing mass layoffs in the coming weeks, as the March 15 deadline approaches. Last year, districts throughout the state announced total layoffs of 30,000. Many were hired back, in part due to federal stimulus money that is not being renewed. The number of layoffs this year will likely be higher, with catastrophic implications for children in California.

The increasing number of layoffs being sent out to teachers is another indication that the response to the economic crisis by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California legislature, the Obama administration, and both of the corporate-controlled political parties, is to slash public education and other vital social programs.

After handing out trillions to the banks, the Obama administration has made clear that it is determined to force states and local districts to enforce steep cuts in social spending. The meager federal funds made available for education have been tied to the implementation of right-wing measures, including increased charter schools and punitive merit pay for teachers.

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