Teacher Layoffs: Where Did They Happen?

The recession has brought with it a huge fear of unprecedentedly high teacher layoffs — and while the president’s job bill offers hope, where have the cuts happened and how tough were they, asks The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

The White House has supplied sobering evidence of a decline in education jobs and that as many as 280,000 “educator jobs” are at risk this school year. But not discounting this evidence, the NCTQ claims to be struck by the lack of reports on layoffs in newspapers this fall.

Last spring, there were many reporting about school districts handing out “pink slips” by the thousands, but there’s been little follow up to see how many teachers have gone from pink slips to no jobs at all.

A new survey by the National Council on Teacher Quality has found that in 74 districts around 9,545 teachers (that works out as about 2.5 percent of the total teachers) were actually laid off (or were probationary teachers who were non-renewed for budget reasons).

California is an anomaly, however.

Three California districts–Long Beach, Sacramento, and San Diego–laid off a whopping 20 percent of their teachers. The only other districts that reduced their 2011-2012 teaching force by more than 10 percent were another California district, Elk Grove, and Dayton, Ohio.

But if about half of the total districts surveyed reported no layoffs at all, then why are these layoff numbers so small when budget woes are apparently so big?

The NCTQ points out that three quarters of the districts didn’t replace some teachers who resigned or retired.

Over half reported laying off central office employees, dismissing teachers without proper certification and not replacing them, or freezing or reducing teacher hiring.

Around two-thirds had some stimulus or EduJobs funds left to use, though it’s not clear how much.

A strategy, as recently reported in the New York Times, might have been slashing the number of classroom aides, going a long way to explain why the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 200,000 “educator” jobs have disappeared.

The NCTQ believes that the report shows that districts went on a hiring spree in public education over the past decade, with the teacher workforce growing at nearly twice the pace of the growth in the student population (8.7 percent vs. 4.9 percent).

“Next time districts feel their wallets swell a bit, we hope they might resist the urge to hire, given that it’s not at all clear what it accomplished in terms of growth in student achievement. Next time, let’s look to significantly better compensation for talented teachers.”