Pink slips! They are becoming so commonplace in this economy, that it’s becoming harder with each passing day for teachers to keep up their morale. How do we cope?
With more state legislatures calling for tighter budgets, and the loss of federal stimulus money to school systems, we will be seeing more pink slips across our nation. Although the purpose of these slips is to warn teachers of the potential for lay-offs, they have become leverage for some education leaders to push voters, teachers’ unions, and districts to find ways to locate other financial resources to save jobs.
State law requires that districts send out these slips to give teachers who might be released from their position an adequate amount of time to find other employment, if such a thing exists. Generally the number of pink slips sent out by a district is higher than the number of teachers actually laid off. But this doesn’t make them an easier pill to swallow, as teachers often wait weeks or months to hear their fate, creating low morale and tension in school districts across our nation.
The tension in some states such as California and Rhode Island is even greater as state law requires that these pink slips must be sent out in March, which is way before state and local budgets are finalized. This results in significantly higher numbers of teachers receiving slips in order for districts to be in compliance with state codes or their district’s bargaining agreements, creating panic in the school systems involved.
We saw it in Providence, Rhode Island, were each of the district’s 1,925 teachers received pink slips, a decision for which Mayor Angel Tavares received much criticism. And we saw it in Los Angeles where, due to a $408 million deficit, the district sent out about 4,500 pink slips to its teachers in March. In both cases, these slips have been sent out before budgets have been finalized and more informed decisions can be made. For teachers in Los Angeles, who are anxiously waiting to find out if they will have a job, decisions will not be made until an updated budget is completed in May and enrollment projections, teacher resignation and retirements, and other measures are factored in.
Typically, nontenured teachers are the ones who are let go, but in Los Angeles, and other districts, the cuts go so deep that some of the teachers who are receiving pink slips have been teaching since 2001 and have tenure. And those teachers who are not laid off may find themselves being shuffled to different schools in their district, teaching new grade levels, and learning a whole new curriculum.
Having spent two years on a RIF list (reduction in force) when I was a younger teacher and had just returned from maternity leave, I know the agony of the wait; that desperate time where you don’t know if you will have a job in the fall. And I know the hopelessness of trying to get a teaching job elsewhere, and times were better then.
Teachers with pink slips know desperate times provide few options, and many of those who are actually laid off will probably be forced to seek employment outside of education. And so they wait, fearful of the future, bitter over the possibility of dreams lost, and wondering how they will survive financially if the worst happens.
A living Hell…