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Thumbnail image for JV_BACKTOSCHOOL 158.JPGAs school districts throughout the state begin to send out legally mandated layoff notices to teachers due to great uncertainty about state aid, an education think tank has issued a new study that's highly critical of the school layoff process.

Layoff notices that are later rescinded when financial pictures become clearer, layoff policies that are based on seniority rather than educational need and the disproportionate impact of layoffs on poor-performing schools are among the factors cited in the report by The Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based, foundation-supported organization that studies California education issues.

The reports authors studied data in three large -- but unnamed -- districts to reach their conclusions about effects of the layoff process, which begins each March with legally mandated notices to teachers deemed to be in danger of losing their jobs due to financial shortfalls.

"While layoffs are a serious problem, the way they are conducted every year can make a bad situation even worse for some of our highest-need schools," said Arun Ramanathan, Ed Trust-West's executive director. "The effects of this process can disrupt the lives of teachers, students and community members who desperately need stability in their schools to close achievement and opportunity gaps."

The report's recommendations include changing the layoff notification date to prevent over-noticing, giving districts explicit flexibility to protect high-poverty schools from disproportionate impact, replacing seniority with policies that emphasize job effectiveness, and giving principals and parents more authority to maintain staff stability. The recommendations largely mirror positions of education reform groups but have been opposed in the past by unions -- especially any modification of seniority as the basis for layoffs.

"With districts across the state already making plans for more layoffs this year, policymakers in Sacramento must take immediate steps to fix the impact of seniority-based layoff policies on our most vulnerable students and the future of California's teaching corps," Ramanathan added. "It's time for California to reform these dated policies and bureaucratic rules and protect the right of all students to be taught by effective teachers in stable schools."

The full report can be found here.

PHOTO CREDIT: A kindergartner walks to class with his parents on the first day of school at the new Cosumnes River Elementary School on Aug. 16, 2010. José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee


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