Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nearly 500 in S.F. Schools to Get Pink Slips

[Published today on SFGate by Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer]

Nearly 500 San Francisco teachers, aides and administrators will find pink slips in their mailboxes within the next two weeks as the school board works to backfill an estimated $27 million shortfall if the state's worst-case budget scenario pans out later this year.

If the layoffs hold, class sizes would go up and overall support for students would decline, district officials said Tuesday night.

The board voted 6-1 to send notices to 140 teachers, nurses and counselors, 194 teacher aides and 139 administrators. Board member Kim-Shree Maufas voted against the layoff notices.

The notices are being sent out now to meet a March 15 deadline required by state law. District officials hope to rescind most of those notices before school starts in the fall. That would happen only if state voters pass proposed tax extensions and increases in June as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal. The governor's proposal to place the measures on the ballot is before the Legislature.

In the meantime, board members said they had no choice but send the notices.

Washington High School counselor Jay Kozak urged the board to look elsewhere for cuts.

"What would a day look like without those people around," Kozak said. "I think it would be terrible at those schools where there are fewer teachers, larger classes and few aides."

Tens of thousands of public school teachers in California are expected to get pink slips by the deadline. Final notices must go out by May 15.

The layoff notices are expected to hit struggling schools the hardest because of a disproportionate number of new teachers at those sites. Under seniority rules, it's typically last in, first out in layoffs.

At El Dorado Elementary in Visitacion Valley, for example, half the school's 15 teachers are expecting to get a layoff notice.

Last year, civil rights groups sued Los Angeles Unified School District over the number of pink slips issued to struggling schools, claiming the teacher turnover unfairly disadvantaged those students. Following a settlement, Los Angeles is expected to protect more than 40 schools from pink slips.

State law requires districts to apply seniority in layoffs, but allows for two exceptions - to keep teachers in hard-to-staff positions like special education and to protect a student's constitutional right to equal opportunity.

Districts can prevent disproportionate layoffs, but have refused to do so, said Public Counsel Law Center attorney Catherine Lhamon, who was co-counsel for plaintiffs in the Los Angeles case.

"It's clearly an option and it's clearly a necessity," she said. "To walk away from doing that is to walk away from those kids."

The San Francisco school board declined to address the issue Tuesday. The district will exempt in-demand special education, math, science and bilingual teachers from layoffs.

But that means those getting pink slips will include teachers at nine district schools that receive about $5 million in federal funding each to boost student performance. The money currently is used to train those newer teachers to succeed in their classrooms.

"It's based on seniority," said Roger Buschmann, district head of human resources. "And there's not a lot we can do to avoid that."


  1. Ok, so special ed and bilingual ed teachers are exempt from these cuts? That only leaves GE programs to take the brunt of these cuts. Ok, and who was it saying that immersion and GE programs are equivalent? I don't think so.

  2. Bilingual ed is different from immersion. Both deal with foreign languages. But bilingual ed deals with English as a foreign language for the student who is protected by Lau v. Nichols. Bilingual ed and special ed are covered by constitutional laws.

    Immersion is not protected by constitutional law. Immersion is about learning two languages, one of which is English. Immersion and GE funding are on the table.

    I don not see how it would be sustainable to have mulitple immersion programs at all middle schools, so I like the idea of a small citywide all-immersion middle school in addition to the programs that all ready exist in existing middle schools.

    We have taken the year's delay to spell out how language programs could be started up at all middle schools. Would it be cheaper and more sustainable to convert one of the elementary schools that we were going to close into an immersion MS?

  3. The Brown versus BOE decision rested upon Constitutional law, equal protection in the 14th Amendment, but not Lau v. Nichols, if that matters.

    Lau was different from Brown because the decision was not predicated upon an intentional harm, like institutionalized segregation policies for example, but on exclusionary practices, regardless of the intent of those policies. That's what made it a landmark case and a big deal from a legal perspective. It wasn't a constitutional issue, but an interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, Title VI, which prevented schools from any kind of education policies that resulted in exclusion of non-native speakers, a characteristic that was deemed a proxy for race, national origin or ethnicity.

    The importance of Lau versus Nichols was in its scope. It pushed the envelope on harm which did not have to be proven as intentional, only as a factual result, even if there was no discriminatory intent.

  4. Sorry, my comment was off topic. I was responding to the previous comment.

  5. Both GE and immersion funding were on the table. But if immersion funding did not get any of the hits, why was it given such a high priority? Because immersion funding works, is popular, is needed to integrate schools that would have been shut down as failing schools.

    Integration of failing schools. That is the quid pro quo for having immersion funding, as expained by Mandarin Immersion Parent in another thread. That is why a Mandarin immersion middle school was turned down. Such a middle school would not do anything about rescuing a failing MS or making our integration numbers look better.

    Very well. Pick your failing MS. Beef up immersion there. Even reduce immersion programs at existing MS's. Immersion at the middle school level has to pay its quid pro quo. Turnaround the MS in trouble. That immersion funding is worth the highest of priorities.

  6. We see from the article that some California schools and their students, not necessarily any in SF, have protections from layoffs. While all students have constitutional and statutory protections regardless of residency status, public perceptions of such legal protections run the gamut from total agreement to outright outrage. Some see such hierarchical prioritizing as a moral imperative to protect society's most vulnerable children. Others bear witness to a spectacle in which the undocumented students served through the largess of bilingual education are shielded from the worst of the budget cuts while ordinary citizens sustain their full brunt.

    We can do better as Americans than to fight over the rights of children. What do children of any origin care of such things?

  7. A review of Lau v. Nichols in Wiki is helpful.

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  9. Wiki is flat out wrong when it claims it is a Constitutional equal protection decision.

    This is copied directly from the Supreme Court decision on Dec. 1973.

    "We do not reach the Equal Protection Clause argument which has been advanced but rely
    solely on § 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d to reverse the court of
    That section bans discrimination based "on the ground of race, color, or national origin," in
    "any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

    The petitioners, the Chinese student groups, argued for their 14th amendment rights. But the court based its decision on the Civil Rights Act and the fact that SFUSD received federal funding.

    I don't know why they did not go all the way to provide relief under the 14th Amendment.
    My guess is that the petitioners only asked for relief and it was provided under lesser law, therefore it did not need to be raised to a Constitutional level. Maybe someone with in-depth knowledge can explain.

    The petitioner's clearly won the case and their contention of equal protection was informally affirmed in some of the court justice's opinions.

    If laying off teachers has a discriminatory effect, too, the question is whether it is the result of union rules or district unwillingness to use the exemptions as they apply differently from district to district. It is a thorny issue because every teacher at underperforming schools could claim that they, that is their students, deserve protection. One thing is clear, removing large numbers of staff from a school has an extremely debilitating effect upon student moral and achievement.

  10. Civics pop quiz item for the day:
    Civil rights are constitutional rights. The source for acts of Congress, such as the Civil Rights Act, is in the US Constitution.

  11. Just chiming in to voice my objection to the harsh label "failing school."

    Schools that cope with a critical mass of low-income, high-need, at-risk students become overwhelmed and struggle. Branding them "failing" is a cruel, coldhearted attack on vulnerable children and their schools and teachers.

  12. The US supreme Court disagreed in 1973, otherwise they would have concurred with the Lau's contention that it was a violation of the 14th Amendment.

  13. Students get graded A, B. C, D, and F. The school system dishes out the F to its students. We can dish it out to ourselves. I do not pile it on. I sometimes say struggling or in trouble. And sometimes I say failing.

    Is there a severely under-enrolled MS? Would the local residents there prefer that it close up? Or would the local residents there prefer that a magnet program, such as immersion, be brought in to increase enrollment and keep the school alive in the area?

    Money is tight. Everybody has to pull its own weight. MS immersion programs should re-locate to a MS in need of a magnet program. Severly under-enrolled schools need to increase enrollment, or close.

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  15. Caroline,

    I appreciate your sentiment, but I don't get your point. If students cannot read or write or do so far below grade level, regardless of the reason, they are failing by any academic standard, and I don't mean that of NCLB, ESEA or whatever Obama calls it nowadays.

    Are they failing or not, because if they are not, why have we awarded 9 schools $45 million with SIG?

    My son is failing at reading due to his ADHD issues and they want him to take the CAL Modified Assessment CMA so he will look like he's doing better. But is he? Let's call a spade a spade. There is nothing cruel in it, tough love for sure, but not cold-hearted. The old aphorism applies- you have to recognize a problem before you can solve it.

    Muir Elementary gets 3 and a half times what Alamo gets in per pupil funding. My failing at-risk son receives no additional help. My honor student has his programs cut to make way for Superintendent Zones. Why are we allocating all this money to failing schools at the expense of all the other students if we won't even recognize they are failing? I don't get your point.

    $36 million in the Targeted Instructional Improvement Block grant and not a penny was flexed. But the $300K for gate got cut in half. Where is the equity in these kinds of per pupil disparities? But Garcia still doesn't have enough to suit himself even with a three and half to one funding ratio. Still he must rob PEEF (Peter)and transfer even more to pay for the Superintendent Zones (Paul). Nice way to get around the caps on administrative costs to boot.

    What could you do with 45 million extra? Could you make a difference with that much money and would you still steal valuable programs from children to further your aims? Or would you say enough is enough. There are more children in SFUSD than in the Superintendent Zones. Garcia's made himself very clear. He put his name on those zones and he will grab every last penny he can get to make sure they succeed, even if he has to strip other valuable programs to get it.

    Just like with NUA, they'll be laying off the very teacher they just trained under SIG in order to comply with union seniority rules. Then he'll be trying to grab seniority rights from teachers. Unlike students, they actually have a lobby to protect them.

  16. Let's congratulate Superintendent Garcia for getting the $45 million in SIG. He earned his pay on that one.

  17. Charlie,

    FYI - SFUSD got the grants primarily because it has more failing schools than any other district in California in relative terms. That is not exactly something to brag about.

  18. Urban school districts have the toughest jobs. Marin Country does not have the challenges SF does. I still say, Well done.

  19. OK, the LAU case is about an act of Congress that says if you take federal money, you cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin. Language issues in public education will come under national origin. The LAU case was not decided by any interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, like BROWN was. This is a big Civics pop quiz item of the day.

  20. Charlie, cheerleading is fine. But don't ignore the problems.

    We should not be congratulated for failure. Consider this:

    San Francisco had 37,710 students evaluated for API in 2009. The State has 4,707,239 students evaluated. San Francisco has 0.8% of the State students. Yet, they have 6.4% of the State's worst schools. This means that San Francisco has eight times their share of bad schools.

    Los Angeles Unified
    (38 identified)
    84% - African American or Hispanic
    2.05 times over-representation of poor performing schools on the State List

    San Diego
    (12 identified)
    55% - African American or Hispanic
    3.67 times over-representation of poor performing schools on the State list

    San Francisco
    (12 identified)
    30% - African American or Hispanic
    8 times over-representation of poor performing schools on the State list.

    Accounting for school size may change the numbers, but the trend is clear.

    What is there to be happy about in being awarded a prize for failure?

  21. Did ES enrollment dramatically increase over the last few years, so much that we expect a huge enrollment into MS?

    If increased money from Sacramento follows increased enrollment (all that taking attendance stuff), is increased enrollment a finacial problem?

  22. Increased attendance ADA increases the state payment towards the revenue limit. That is an amount that is set by a complex formula individualized for each of the 900 some odd districts. State revenue limit and categorical funds are 60 something % of the total district budget. I wouldn't characterize enrollment increases as dramatic. But even small changes can create problems for schools that have to deal with staffing issues, space considerations and CSR maximums.