Confronting massive budget deficits, school districts throughout the country have been sending out notices (“pink slips”) to employees this spring, warning them that they are unlikely to have a job in the fall. The bloodletting is worst in California, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and New Jersey, but nearly every region in the country is affected.
Pink slips were sent out to 22,000 teachers in California, 17,000 in Illinois, and 15,000 in New York. The jobs of 8,000 school employees in Michigan, 6,000 in New Jersey, and 5,000 in Oklahoma may also be axed.
These numbers are expected to increase in coming months. Officials in Illinois report that as many as 20,000 educators could lose their jobs in the state. In California, an additional 4,000 people may be put on notice.
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated earlier this week that between 100,000 to 300,000 public education positions in the US are in danger. A study conducted by the American Association of School Administrators found that ninety percent of the nation’s school superintendents plan to cut jobs in the fall. This represents an increase of about 30 percent over the previous year.
The mass layoffs have the Obama administration’s stamp of approval.
On March 1, Obama publicly supported the firing of the entire faculty and staff at Central Falls High. He hailed the action as an example of what should be done at schools around the country in order to hold educators “accountable” for so-called “poor performance.” In doing so, Obama gave a green light to a nationwide attack on teachers.
The Obama administration has also tied meager federal funds to the implementation of such measures, as well as the expansion of charter schools. The crisis facing school districts in the coming school year is exacerbated by the fact that most states have used up whatever portion of the $100 billion in federal stimulus money they received from Washington in 2009.
Democratic Senator Tom Harkin has proposed a paltry $23 billion education bailout. The allocation of such a sum, which is only $6 billion more than the cuts made to public in the past two years alone, would be inadequate to rescue the public school system in the US.
In any case, the Iowa congressman’s proposed legislation is largely for show. As the New York Times observed in an April 21 article, “Senior Democratic aides said that because Mr. Harkin’s would add to the deficit, it was unlikely to pass.”
Major metropolitan areas are being particularly hard hit by teacher layoffs. Detroit has warned 2,000 educators—40 percent of its total teaching staff—they might be out of a job come September. News of the pink slips follows an announcement that the city plans to permanently close 41 schools in June and another 13 within the next two years.