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    Twenty-nine teacher layoffs rescinded

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer

    All 29 of the regular Albany public school teachers who received pink slips on March 15 learned Wednesday that their layoffs are rescinded and they’ll have jobs next year, thanks to retirements and leave requests among their colleagues.

    However, another 28 temporary teachers have not been so lucky and their layoff notices are likely to stay in force, according to district and union officials.

    The good news for those keeping jobs results not because the district found new money. In fact, if anything, the district’s budget problems could worsen because of the state’s financial woes, said Superintendent Marla Stephenson. Seventeen full-time teaching positions have been eliminated. But normal turnover among the teaching staff created opportunities to call back those given notice.

    “Because of retirements and resignations and people asking for leave we were able to place them all,” Stephenson said.

    “People’s lives are in such disarray with the economy being so bad, so we wanted to try to keep them in jobs,” she said, adding. “Also, you never want to let go of good teachers if you can help it. The district invests a lot of time and energy” in recruiting and training teachers.

    Those whose layoffs were rescinded include six elementary school teachers, six middle school teachers – three full-time and three part-time, and a slew of high school teachers whose specialties include science, foreign languages, government, English, psychology, athletics and more.

    “I’m extremely relieved,” said high school biology teacher Ian Murray who received word Wednesday about the rescind after nearly a month of fearing he had lost his job. “It is only sinking in now how much weight has been lifted.”

    School districts all around the state have been laying off teachers because of sharply reduced state funding of education. That means finding a new teaching job would be tough right now.

    Science teacher Loring Barker, president of the Albany Teachers Association, said the relief and happiness about the rescind is still mixed with worry about what will happen in the schools next year.

    “We are happy many teachers can refocus on their teaching and put worries about supporting their families behind them, but there is still sadness over the continued loss of programs and valued colleagues because of the pathetic state budgets,” Barker said.

    “Unfortunately there are still many economic uncertainties and we had a large number of other teachers who are listed as temporary and have been informed they will not be coming back,” he said.

    The state of California slashed its education funding by $7.4 billion this year and by an additional $3.2 billion next year. That means it will spend about $400 less on educating each student than it previously did. Such a reduction will place California on the bottom rung among the 50 states in what it invests in each student’s education, known as spending per pupil.

    “It is just so sad that California values its schools and children so little,” Barker said.

    California legislators voted sharp cuts to education in order to balance the state’s deficit-ridden budget, which was $41 billion in the red, before legislators finally passed a budget in late winter. However, that budget depends on California voters approving special ballot measures on May 19. If voters don’t approve IB, which would restore $9.3 billion taken from schools this year and last at some future time, and IA, which would require the state to set up a rainy-day fund to save money in flush years to offset lean years, then the budget agreement dies and spending for education could diminish further. The $9.3 billion would come from the rainy day fund.

    Many school districts are scrambling to assemble special parcel taxes and other money-raising ideas. In Albany, several non-profit school groups are working hard to raise money to save programs and teaching positions that the board of education earmarked to cut unless money is found. Some consideration is being given to put another parcel tax measure on a future ballot, but that would not help for the immediate school year starting in September.

    In February and early March, the Albany board of education voted provisional cuts of numerous programs, including some cherished ones such as the period for electives at the high school and middle school and the elementary school music program. The board needed to comply with a law requiring a plan for a balanced district budget by mid-March. Now, the board hopes it will be able to replace at least some of those programs with money raised in the community and any revisions from California budget makers.

    Article by Barbara Grady-Ayer

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