Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Last year's economic stimulus package, which provided $48 billion for schools, saved at least 320,000 education jobs according to Arne Duncan, the nation's education secretary.
But the stimulus money is disappearing fast and is expected to run out before the end of the year. The dwindling funds, along with the need for states to drastically slash their budgets to achieve balance, are likely to lead to a slew of teacher layoffs in the near future.
President Obama warned the public last week that state and local governments who were using stimulus money to delay layoffs would be forced to 'make some very tough decisions' once the recovery money ran out.
'We could potentially see layoffs taking place this year because we haven't re-upped in terms of providing some help to those states and local governments. That's something that we're watching and we're concerned about,' Obama said.
Secretary Duncan expressed a similar worry during a meeting of the National Governors Association on Sunday, focusing his comment exclusively on teachers and education professionals.
'I am very, very concerned about layoffs going into the next school year starting in September. Good superintendents are going to start sending out pink slips in March and April, as they start to plan for their budgets,' Duncan said.
How Many Will Be Driven Out of the Classroom?
There were 8.03 million workers in local government education in January of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is down from 8.09 million workers in 2009. It is the first time since 1984 that education jobs have fallen.
Although there are no definite answers as to how many teachers will be driven out of the classroom in 2010, budget constraints and last year's layoff trends indicate the possibility of large-scale downsizing in the future.
Nearly 60,000 elementary and secondary school employees were laid off last year. That's two times the number laid off the previous year and three times the number from 2007.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
New York City, which hosts the nation's largest school system, could be facing a loss of 11,000 of its 79,000 teachers. It would be the first time since 1976 that this particular school system has seen a significant loss of teachers through layoffs. To avoid pink-slipping more than 10% of its education staff, the city will need to see pay concessions from the teachers' union as well as approved budget cuts from the state governor.
Most of the layoffs in the New York City system and other school systems around the country will be handled on a last-in/first-out basis, which means that teachers with low seniority are likely to be let go first. This standard rule of thumb has been meeting resistance from many parents and government officials who worry that the policy will leave some of the schools' best teachers out in the cold.
There is also some concern that an unnecessary number of teachers will be laid off if the seniority-based rule is not addressed. New teachers often make less money than their veteran counterparts. Keeping more expensive teachers on the payroll could mean that more teachers will lose their job in the end.
Teachers unions disagree with the latter assessment though, maintaining that seniority-based layoffs are the only objective way to decide who stays and who goes.
What do you think? Should teacher seniority rules dictate layoffs or are there other objective criteria that can be taken into consideration? Share your thoughts on our Twitter page.