Thursday, May 10, 2012

RIF is Gonna to Git Yo Mama

The 4LAKids Blog suggests that a new term has taken hold in California schools: "the RIFing season," which refers to the time of the year in which "reduction in force" letters are sent out notifying teachers they may be laid off at the end of the school year.

Lately the numbers have grown ridiculously high. In March, 20,000 RIF letters went out to California teachers. Yet in the previous three years, only 25% of those receiving RIFs actually lost their jobs. While this is still a large number of layoffs (11% of the state’s entire teacher workforce) and it is certainly anxiety-provoking for those who receive RIFs, it seems excessive, cruel and unnecessary to send out layoff notices to 3 times more teachers than will actually be laid off.

The layoff notices destroy teacher morale and create uncertainty in school communities that negatively impacts students. The process is also costly to schools, costing around $700 per noticed teacher ($14 million for the 20,000 RIFfed teachers), when one factors in the expenses of having to send RIF notices by certified mail and the appeal hearings before administrative law judges.

To make matters worse, some districts may be using the fear and uncertainty of the RIF process to pressure teachers into accepting furloughs, pay cuts and other concessions and it is regularly brought up by Ed Deformers as justification for doing away with seniority and even tenure.

Of course the most immediate and logical solution to the problem is to increase revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy and their corporations, something Jerry Brown and the CTA hope to do in November with their “Millionaires Tax Initiative.” However, this tax increase will barely maintain the status quo and restore virtually none of the $20 billion that has been looted from California K-12 public education over the past 4 years. There are also attempts in the works to create legislation that would delay the RIFfing season by a few months.

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