Cuts May Affect Temporary Employment

Sophia Bollag, Managing Editor

Due to “worst case scenario” budget discussions taking place at board meetings, members of the teachers’ union have become concerned that the district will implement personnel cuts. The union has taken the position that they oppose any layoffs the district might propose. One alternative to potential layoffs that has been mentioned by both the district and the union is a change to the current trends regarding temporary employment in the district.

Although a temporary teacher’s contract ends at the end of the school year, in recent years many temporary teachers in this district have been rehired again the following year on another temporary contract. In this way, some teachers in our district have had temporary status for more than three years.

“Generally a high percentage of temporary teachers end up back in the district” the next year, said Nick Carpenter, a Miramonte teacher and a representative of the teachers’ union. He said this is what happens in “normal years, but this might be an abnormal year.”

Although at the moment the district has made no proposals about personnel reductions, Budget Services Associate Superintendent Chris Learned said one way to make reductions in personnel cuts, should those cuts become necessary, without laying off permanent teachers would be to reduce the number of temporary sections funded by the district and not rehire temporary teachers next year.

This year “we have temporary teachers on assignment,” he said. “We may not have those next year.”

Current levels of temporary employment in the district are higher than they have been in previous years. This is in part because the budget crisis in 2008 prompted massive layoffs throughout the state. AUHSD, in particular, was forced to lay off more than 30 teachers employed on long-term probationary or permanent contracts. Parents’ clubs and education foundations later stepped in and provided funding to replace those teachers who had been laid off.

“As we entered into the budget crisis, more of our teaching sections are funded through what we call soft money, it’s money that’s on a one-year pledge, often coming from a parent foundation,” Superintendent John Nickerson said. “From there, rather than hiring a probationary teacher, we hire a temporary teacher.”

In the district, numerous sections in core courses, including English and math, are funded by categorical, or soft, funding from donations. This money cannot be used to hire teachers on permanent contracts because it is not legally guaranteed from year to year as state funding is.

“The reason we do it is to avoid layoffs,” Administrative Services Associate Superintendent Kevin French said. “If you hired everybody permanent, every year you’d be laying people off.”

The number of teachers being hired in California has decreased significantly since the budget crisis.

“We have a situation where the only hiring many districts are doing is for people who are on leave,” French said.

AUHSD, however, has hired new teachers every year since the layoffs in 2008 using categorical funds, and not just to replace teachers on leave.

“We’re a little different than the school districts around us,” French said. Because our district receives more money from donations than other districts and can therefore afford to hire to keep class sizes down “we tend to have more temporary teachers.”

While the district has hired some permanent teachers since 2008, most of the teachers hired in the past few years have not been hired on permanent contracts.

“Most of our new positions the last two years have been temporary,” Nickerson said.

Although the number of temporary teachers in the district increased significantly during the 2009-2010 school year, the number has not increased since.

“Our foundations are providing resources typically to English and also math, so we continue to have some ongoing temps in those subject areas,” French said. “I know that right now we have an almost identical amount to last year, if not a little less.”

While the budget crisis caused the initial surge in temporary employment, it is not the reason for all temporary employment in the district. Teachers on medical leave, such as maternity leave, are always replaced by temporary teachers, regardless of the economic situation.

“There are always going to be temporary positions available,” French said. “It’s more typical now because of the economic situation.”

French said he keeps an ongoing record of employment in the district to ensure that the district is not employing more teachers on temporary contracts than it needs to.

“It would be a code violation, education code, or labor code, to have excessive temporary employees, to have temporary employees without a reason,” French said.

This is because being a temporary teacher is undesirable in many ways. Typically, when a first year teacher is hired for a regular position, i.e. not to replace a teacher on leave, they are given probationary status. After two years, a probationary teacher gains permanent status and some level of job security.

However, a temporary teacher is not on a multiyear contract. This can make it much more difficult for them to achieve job security. A temporary teacher must first be converted to probationary status before they can secure any job security, at all.

“In the short term, I imagine there would be some angst and anxiety with the teacher, who wants more security than temporary status,” Nickerson said. “In the long term, most of our temporary teachers have been able to stay with us year after year, and eventually find an opportunity to become permanent or probationary status.”

“Hopefully, come May, when we do our master schedule, we can notify some of these great temporary teachers, that we’ll have that same position for them next year,” French said. “Hopefully.”