LA Schools Cut Futures

brandon wong | Staff Photographer Southern California teachers march through Pershing Square in Los Angeles on March 4, 2010.

brandon wong | Staff Photographer Southern California teachers march through Pershing Square in Los Angeles on March 4, 2010.

School districts had to notify teachers of their potential layoffs for next year by the deadline on March 15.

That day has come and gone, leaving many elementary and high school teachers with pink slips in hand. Layoffs have been particularly extensive in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and the LAUSD has also announced a plan to cut five days from the academic calendar this year.

“By April, the schools should know their budget and bring [teachers] back in the summer,” Christina Giguiere, the multiple subject placement coordinator in the education department at UC Irvine, said.

Teaching jobs, traditionally considered stable, often come with the cyclical nature of state funding attached. According to Giguiere, pink-slipped teachers usually can expect to be rehired during the next school year.

With the current deficit however, preliminary pink slips will have a more final ring to them this year. Each district is millions of dollars behind in their budget, and a credentialed teacher, with salary and full medical coverage, costs about $80,000 a year. As a result, teachers, whose salaries make up 80 percent of school budgets, are unlikely to be rehired or find a new job. In fact, there are virtually no job postings for teacher positions in Southern California, according to Giguiere.

“This year feels different; it is more difficult [to be rehired],” the single subject coordinator in the education department, Virginia Panish, said.

“It’s definitely scary. It’s not looking good for my career path, and I may have to start considering going out of state [for a job in teaching] or other alternatives,”  fourth-year literary journalism major Khassaundra Delgado said. Delgado has taken classes in education and hopes to teach in the future.

In this economic climate, with districts unable to afford new teachers, job prospects look grim for graduating UC Irvine students who want to begin a year in teaching.

“I might have looked elsewhere for a job. I might have not wanted to teach in Los Angeles,” said Aaron Abajian, a graduate of UCI and a teacher of two years at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. Abajian began teaching at the high school level through the Teach for America program.

Increasingly, new teachers are looking elsewhere for jobs, in Northern California, in private and chartered public schools, and out of state. Panish and Giguiere often recommend that their students move out of the public school system in the interest of finding and keeping a job.

“Other states aren’t as strapped for money as California,” Panish said.

As a result, the California public school system may experience a “brain drain” in the future as new talent, most likely taught in the California public school system.

The public school system in California is already bound for difficult times. Because teachers have been fired and days cut, quality of education is bound to suffer.

“[Cutting days] is better than firing teachers … but of course it’s going to hurt the kids,” Panish said of the LAUSD’s plans to cut five academic days from school calendars.

“There isn’t much light shining on public schools right now,” Abajian said.

Even so, many students  still plan on pursuing teaching as a career option.

“There will always be a need for good teachers,” Panish said.