For five years, California teachers have dreaded March 15, the deadline for schools to issue layoff warnings. But in the Bay Area, fewer pink slips were sent out this year than anticipated -- not because school budgets are better, but because there aren't many places left to cut.
Oakland Unified, which handed out hundreds last year, issued zero, as did Lafayette. San Jose Unified notified all its administrators, just as a precaution, but none of its teachers. Fremont Unified did likewise.
Many districts did issue dozens of notices just to keep their options open because they can't lay off teachers unless they've been notified by this week. New Haven in Union City sent out pink slips for 77 full-time-equivalent jobs. Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County sent out 91; Antioch sent out 20, including all its counselors. Many of those notices will be rescinded by the next deadline in May, districts say.
Nearly 20,000 teachers statewide received pink slips by Thursday, according to the California Teachers Association, somewhat fewer than last year. But Los Angeles Unified sent out about 9,500 of those.
So without layoffs, what will happen if the state cuts $2.4 billion from education -- the threatened consequence if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax package doesn't pass in November?
Wealthier districts are tapping into local funds. Both Cupertino Union and Los Altos elementary have passed two parcel taxes each to fortify their bottom lines. Others, including Santa Clara Unified, West Contra Costa and New Haven, hope voters will pass taxes this spring.
During 18 months of doom-and-gloom budget news, districts have eliminated programs, crammed more children into each classroom, cut employees and left jobs vacant.
They scrimped and set aside money to prepare for midyear trigger cuts, then when the cuts turned out to be milder than anticipated, they squirreled away that money.
"Districts have been planning for these triggers now for two budget years," said Dennis Meyers of the California School Boards Association.
But the other reason behind fewer pink slips is that schools simply are running out of options. "There are fewer places to make any cuts this year," said Bernie Vidales, superintendent of the Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City.
Antioch Superintendent Donald Gill said, "We're getting perilously close to the brink."
So districts plan to draw deeply on reserves.
"Last year we told districts to plan for the worst, hope for the best," said Ken Shelton, chief business officer for the Santa Clara County Office of Education. This year, he told districts to plan for the best, but still have some contingency plans.
"The best" means anticipating state voters pass Brown's tax package in November. It will provide some relief, reducing the amount that the state is currently borrowing from school districts but will not be a windfall. "The worst" means low tax revenues and no new taxes.
Those two extremes post a huge challenge to budgeting.
The Redwood City School District, which even in the best scenario needs to cut $1.6 million, plans to eliminate 10.8 credentialed jobs, including its music teachers and half its nurses. Chief Business Official Raul Parungao hopes union negotiations will yield six furlough days, so those jobs can be restored. If the November ballot measure fails, the district will propose reducing 11 more days.
Without increasing class size, already at 30 in primary grades and 32 from fourth grade up, the district can't cut more jobs. Nearing classroom capacity and legal limits, Parungao said, "There's no room to increase class-size further."
Even if comparatively fewer layoff notices were sent this year, "any pink slip is horrible," Meyers said.
Cynthia Dalmacio has just received her fourth pink slip, even though she's been teaching 16 years. "It's a roller coaster each year," said the Brisbane elementary teacher.
She taught 12 years in Jefferson, then decided to switch to the district where she lives and lost her seniority at a bad time.
"The state went haywire, and now there are pink slips everywhere," she said.
She's been called back to work as late as August but is not optimistic this year. It's an ordeal that has reduced her to nightly tears.
"Teaching is not just a job for me," she said. "It's who I am."
Staff writers Paul Burgarino, Chris DeBenedetti, Rob Dennis, Katy Murphy, Jason Sweeney, Elisabeth Nardi, Eric Kurhi and Lisa White contributed to this report. Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
Below are the number of potential layoffs, expressed in full-time-equivalent permanent positions, in some South Bay and Peninsula school districts. The total does not include non-credentialed employees, temporary employees or nontenured teachers who may lose their jobs.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
Alum Rock 42
Campbell Union High 0
East Side Union High 0
Los Altos 0
Los Gatos Elementary 0.8
Los Gatos-Saratoga High 0
Luther Burbank 0
Metropolitan Educ. 8.7
Mountain View-Whisman 0
Mt. View-Los Altos High 0
Palo Alto Unified 0
San Jose Unified 147
Santa Clara Unified 37.6
SAN MATEO COUNTY
Jefferson Elementary 1
Jefferson Union High 0.4
Menlo Park 1.5
Redwood City 10.8
San Mateo Co. Ofc. of Ed. 6
San Mateo-Foster City 16.17
Sequoia Union High 1
So. San Francisco 0
Schools' Preliminary Layoff Notices
Below are the number of potential layoffs, expressed in full-time-equivalent permanent positions, in some Contra Costa and Alameda school districts. The total does not include non-credentialed employees, temporary employees or nontenured teachers who may lose their jobs.
Castro Valley 18
Fremont 0 teachers,
New Haven 77
San Leandro 42
San Lorenzo 0
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Mt. Diablo 91
Walnut Creek 0
West Contra Costa 52