Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Extensive teacher layoffs across America

But I'm betting that not a single education bureaucrat or any of the "administrators" who now infest schools have been laid off. A strange idea of who the important people are

Widespread layoffs caused by tight school budgets are forcing thousands of teachers out of the classroom, in some cases, permanently. Many are taking other jobs or considering changing careers, even as they anxiously hope to be recalled. When school begins this month, as many as 100,000 of last year’s teachers won’t have jobs, resulting in an overall drop in education jobs in the U.S., estimates Carmen Quesada, director of field operations for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

That’s a jolt to people drawn to teaching in part for its recession-proof reputation. The number of people working in local education has increased every year since 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That streak is now in jeopardy: Local schools employed fewer people overall, including nonteachers, in July, the latest month available, than in July 2008. The majority of the layoffs have involved nontenure teaching positions, with cuts determined by seniority.

Judith Franco is among those affected. She taught typing and business technology at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, Fla., for two years before being laid off in June—one of 394 teachers laid off by the Broward County Public Schools. Now, the 45-year-old single mother is plotting how to pay her daughter’s college tuition, while supporting her 13-year-old son and a brother with lymphoma. She is considering resuming the alterations business she ran for 20 years before teaching. She recently reconnected with former clients and has lined up a few jobs working on weddings. “I’m in wait-and-see mode,” she says. “I’m looking everywhere.”

Historically, many teachers laid off during tough times quit the profession. New York City laid off 15,000 teachers during its fiscal crisis in the 1970s. It later recalled 10,000, but only 3,000 returned, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “You’ll lose teachers to other professions. They certainly didn’t come to education to become rich,” says Ms. Weingarten.

Some teachers given pink slips last spring have been recalled. Eighth-grade English teacher Samantha Terrasas, 28 years old, was notified of her impending layoff in March, a few months before she was named the “Outstanding New Teacher” in San Lorenzo, Calif. In late July, she was offered her job back and accepted.

Even when teachers are recalled, job security is never certain, and that can take a toll. Audrey Day, 30, taught fourth and fifth grades for three years in San Diego. During that time, she was told five times that she might have to change schools; and she was formally notified she might be laid off only once. Ms. Day never lost her job, but says the process was extremely stressful and made her wary of bonding with her students. “Ultimately I worked far too hard through an undergrad degree, credential [program] and master’s not to know month to month if I’ll have a position,” she says. In 2007, Ms. Day quit to prepare for law school. She starts Seton Hall University law school later this month.

Lauren Sikorski, 25, recently laid off after two years teaching special-education math at Carteret Middle School in Carteret, N.J., plans to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, beginning next spring. “The plan my whole life was to be a teacher,” she says. “Now I’ll still work with children, just in a different setting.”

Many others are biding their time, scrambling to craft back-up plans while hoping to be recalled. Tony Whitesel, 39, left a branch-manager job at Hertz in 2001 to return to college to become a teacher. In 2006, he started work as a fifth-grade teacher at Great Valley Elementary School in Manteca, Calif. He was laid off in June. Mr. Whitesel says he went into teaching thinking he would have job security. “Ironically, I’m the only one in my family to graduate high school, let alone college, yet I’m the only one not working,” he says.

He spent the summer struggling to pay rent, a total of $40,000 in student loans and other living expenses on unemployment benefits and his wife’s salary as an aide for children with learning disabilities; she makes about a third of his old salary. His health insurance will run out at the end of the month, and he says he won’t be able to extend it.

Last week, Mr. Whitesel was told he could fill in for several months in the coming school year for a teacher on sick leave from a different Manteca school. But the substitute post doesn’t offer benefits, so Mr. Whitesel is still looking for nonteaching jobs, hindered by the 15.5% unemployment rate in San Joaquin County, among the nation’s highest. If he finds a job and sees potential for growth, he says he would leave teaching. “I won’t be terribly picky as long as the income is high enough and I have benefits,” he says.

Aside from losing current teachers, some school officials worry the mounting layoffs could deter students from entering the field. Jack O’Connell, California’s superintendent of public instruction, says generally fewer people apply for teacher credentials when school funding declines. The California Teachers Association estimates 17,000 teachers in the state received pink slips last school year.

This fall’s class in the teacher-credential program at the University of Redlands School of Education in Redlands, Calif., has about 50 students, about 20 fewer than normal. Dean Robert Denham says prospective students are having a hard time justifying the $15,810 expense for another year of education when they may not find a job after completing the program.

Enrollment in the elementary program at California Lutheran University’s School of Education in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is down by one-third from two years ago, says Carol Bartell, the school’s dean.

Applications for the master’s-degree-in-teaching program at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education in Charlottesville, Va., fell more than 15% this year, the largest one-year drop in school history, says Sandi Cohen, director of teacher education. Graduates also are finding it tougher to find a job. Ms. Cohen says slightly more than 15% of this year’s graduates don’t have jobs, a rare occurrence in other years.

So far Teach for America Inc., a nonprofit that places recent college graduates in low-income public schools, has yet to see any impact from the school cuts or interest from laid-off teachers, says Kerci Marcello Stroud, national communications director. The group saw a 42% increase in applications this year and expects to place its largest corps ever this school year: more than 4,000 new teachers, up from 3,700 last year.

But the recent news of budget cuts and layoffs on a local basis across the country may eventually limit the pool of new teachers. “Students who are very competitive in the work force are smart enough to realize that there aren’t going to be jobs if the school districts around them are cutting back,” says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “They will pursue a different career.”


New 'totalitarian' home education rules in England drive families north to Scotland

Home schooling advisers say they are being swamped by inquiries from parents who want to move to Scotland

The housing market may still be gloomy but one group of people could offer estate agents a glimmer of hope, as home education support groups report a huge increase in the number of inquiries from parents thinking of moving to Scotland. "People are serious about leaving England," says Barbara Stark, chair of Action for Home Education. The surge in interest follows the government's planned shake-up of home education in England – described by Stark as "totalitarian".

Schoolhouse, a Scottish home education charity, has received four times the normal numbers of inquiries from English parents considering a move north, with nearly 100 in the two weeks following the publication in June of Graham Badman's review of home education in England. The review's key recommendations would force families who opt out of schooling to register annually with their local authorities, submit learning plans and undergo regular inspections. The report was accepted by the government.

Schoolhouse spokesperson Alison Preuss says: "The Badman report came out in the middle of June and we started getting swamped with calls from English families who were asking about how 'safe' Scotland was by comparison. "We are not only being asked about the home education law, but also about the political climate, transport links, housing, employment and business opportunities by parents who are making plans to move to Scotland." Scottish educational policy recommends that LEAs should be in contact with home-schooling families annually, but this is a recommendation, not an obligation.

The Badman proposals are causing Techla and David Wood to "reluctantly" move north from Hellifield, North Yorkshire, to North Ayrshire with their four children. Techla Wood says if the family remained in England, they could not continue with their "child-led learning" because of the requirement that teaching plans must be submitted to local authorities. "My eldest children, twins Daisy and Chloe, are 13 and have never been to school, but the Badman report turns everything that we have being doing on its head. If we stay in England, Ben and Ariana, who are six and one, won't have the same options to explore their education or have the freedom to learn as the older kids have," she says.

The Woods are looking at houses in the Largs, West Kilbride and Fairlie area. "It's a difficult time to do this with the financial crisis, but if it came to it we would put the house on the market below the market price just to get a quick sale and then go and stay with friends."

Lisa Amphlett and partner Gareth Jenkins from Stafford have been looking at houses in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where property is expensive. The couple run a web design company, making them reasonably mobile, but they need good transport links and have altered their business plans to finance the move, even though their daughter, Millie, is only 20 months old. They fully intend to home educate Millie.

Lisa Amphlett explains: "We are prepared to go as quickly as possible but we have set a deadline when Millie turns five. Being judged on our educational or parental quality is not a road we want to take."


Australian teacher wants justice for 'nude sacking'

I have some sympathy for this woman. Teachers are entitled to a private life too. And bureaucrats sure have ways of getting nasty. On being ordered to reinstate her, they gave her a difficult job for which she is not trained. What does it say about a bureaucracy that fills positions with unqualified people? Someone needs to crack down on these petulant sulkers. Pic concerned below -- JR

A TEACHER sacked for posing nude in a women's magazine is fighting for an apology and compensation. Lynne Tziolas was sacked from Narraweena Public School, in Sydney's northern suburbs, after she posed nude with her husband Antonios also a casual teacher in the sealed section of Cleo magazine last year.

After finalising legal documents Mrs Tziolas plans to file her claim against the the New South Wales Education Department with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in the next two weeks. She is seeking answers and compensation for the "irrevocable damage’’ done to her career, The Manly Daily reports.

Her initial sacking divided the school community and caused a public uproar with both parents and students campaigning to have the popular year one teacher back in the classroom. After an investigation, the Education Department overturned the decision and reinstated her.

However, she was offered a position at a school for students with behavioural and learning difficulties, one she says she is not qualified for. The second offer was for an interview, not a position, for a school in the northern Sydney school of Ryde about "an hour and a half away in peak hour traffic’’.

Mrs Tziolas said there were many double standards within the Education Department. "Antonios is a teacher and nothing happened to him. He was in the same picture.’’

Mr Tziolas said there was also a gender inequality with other public servants, such as firefighters, who pose for nude calendars. "We’re going to argue not only has Lynne’s career been irrevocably damaged, but her health has suffered directly as a result,’’ he said. "It’s not the same as in the corporate world where you can look for another job outside of the company. We won’t deny compensation is something we’re seeking but also the acknowledgment that they (department) have stuffed up.’’


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