Teachers brace for layoff notices

February 28, 2008 9:42:17 PM PST
It's only a matter of time before teachers everywhere know if they are a target of layoff notices. In Santa Clara County, the number crunching doesn't leave any options but layoffs across the board in virtually every district.

Beneath the surface in any school, teachers are hiding a mix of emotions: anger, fear, even denial.

"These cuts are impossible. They just are not going to work. How can we service our kids?" says Marisa Hanson, president of the East Side Teachers Association.

Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed $4 billion dollars in education cuts.

In Santa Clara County, that would affect 34 school districts and more than a quarter of a million students. District by district layoff notices for teachers are already being prepared.

"What I can tell you is that at the last superintendent's meeting, there was a hand survey done of the superintendents. 'raise your hand if you're gping to issue March 15th notice letters and I would say 90 plus percent of the superintendents raised their hands," says Joe Fimiani, interim superintendent of the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

Districts are being forced to face a worst-case scenario because they must notify teachers who could be laid off by March 15th. The catch is that the legislature won't debate the proposed cuts until June.

Everyone concedes that if cuts must be made, there is no place else to trim except at the staff level. Personnel accounts for about 85 percent of most district budgets.

Principal Wayne Leach says there are no more pennies to save.

"We pretty much aren't spending anything. Food for meetings is down to water when we have our parent meetings. We're not spending. That's what it boils down to. We're really not spending," says Leach.

For the Governor to get deep cuts in the classroom, Proposition 98, which guarantees minimum spending levels in education, would have to be suspended. Educators say they will protest like they did in 2005 to keep that from happening.

"We will fight that part tooth and nail, to the very end," says Fimiani.

The hope is that the layoff notices that do go out won't actually be needed.