Chatsworth elementary teacher Lisa Hobi knows all too well what it’s like to be on pins and needles for weeks after receiving a “pink slip” from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
Hobi, who gave up a lucrative position with a public relations firm to teach, is one of the many casualties of the LAUSD’s ongoing budget woes.
She worked at Germain Street School in Chatsworth where her two young children attend and was one of thousands of district employees who were dismissed and didn’t get their jobs back.
“Between June of 2009 and June of 2010, there wasn’t a night I didn’t go to sleep crying,” said Hobi, a Chatsworth homeowner. “Now I’m just numb to it. It’s not that I’m accepting it, I’m just numb; it’s out of my hands.”
Hobi, 40, has a mortgage to contend with, health benefits she needs to maintain and although she’s been a substitute teacher this year she’s still is in a “hurry up and wait for a phone call” mode.
And with the projected layoffs expected next year as the LAUSD grapples with a $408-million budget deficit, Hobi believes her chances of becoming a full-time teacher again is even more remote.
She does admit, however, she’s been one of the luckier teachers in the massive district this school year.
But since the LAUSD hires “displaced” teachers on a full-time basis before rehiring pink-slipped teachers, Hobi can only hope for the best.
“I feel bad because I want to be in a classroom and since I once used substitute teachers I feel like I’m competing with them now,” Hobi said. “Every day I count my blessings, but I’m not hopeful that next year I will be a busy sub; there are too many people without jobs.”
“Pink Slips” or Reduction-In-Force Notices are handed out to employees in jeopardy of losing their jobs on a yearly basis, according to state education laws.
Receiving a notice doesn’t always mean a dismissal, but with the city and state in financial ruin, projected layoffs are most likely inevitable, officials said on Friday.
Last month 7,302 layoff notices were issued district-wide to teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians and administrators compared to 2,224 in 2008-2009 school year and 1,515 during 2009-2010. More than 5,000 employees were fired since the 2008-2009 school year.
There are 151 schools in District 1, which includes Chatsworth. Of those schools, 29 are looking to lose 20 percent or more of their employees, according to a LAUSD Human Resources Division report dated March 16.
School officials said increased utility and fuel costs, declining enrollment along with expiring legislation that provides a bulk of the funding to the LAUSD and the loss of federal stimulus funds are the main factors for financial difficulties.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to extend tax legislation and bring the issue to the voters, which could result in a $2.2 billion financial infusion throughout California. But if the issue doesn’t go to the voters until November, it will be too late for this batch of layoffs.
In order to pass the projected $5.1 million budget for 2011-2012, the LAUSD needs to increase class size.
In the past, deep cuts were kept away from the classroom, but that might be impossible during current budget negotiations, experts say.
At Lawrence Middle School Gifted/Highly Gifted Magnet in Chatsworth, the principal is bracing for another reduction in his staff next year in addition to the three teachers who lost their job in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school year along with one educational aid.
Teachers and district employees receiving layoff notices are not only applying to other districts within California, but also out of state and most don’t return to Los Angeles, said Lawrence Principal Danford Schar.
Schar described LAUSD as a training ground for teachers forced to go elsewhere due to permanent layoffs.
Schar says it’s more than letting a good teacher go; sometimes it’s also about losing a successful program they used in the classroom.
He also said his school has lost maintenance employees and teachers and students are emptying wastepaper baskets and sweeping floors.
At Lawrence, five maintenance employees of 12, responsible for looking after 75 classrooms and offices at Lawrence where 1,700 students attend, were cut during the 2010-2011 school year.
Recently, seven teachers received “pink slips.” One administrative position was cut, while two clerical employees’ positions were also closed.
Four 6th-grade teachers out of 20 received pink slips at Lawrence.
The band teacher, who has produced an award-winning group of students, is facing a layoff. Schar said if he isn’t rehired, the LAUSD will provide another teacher, but probably from the elementary teacher pool, which is not ideal.
He said Chatsworth High School is facing the same situation.
“There are no discretionary funds to hire them back,” Schar said.
This year there are 34 to 36 pupils on average per class. English and math classes are commonly smaller than science and history classes. Schar said next year he is looking at between 38 and 40 students per class on average.
“Yes, the economy is in bad shape. This is not a time to balance the state budget by keeping money from the schools,” Schar said.
He also said keeping legislation in place that provides a significant amount of funding for the district is necessary.
“If we keep legislation in place, we can save most of the teacher jobs,” Schar added. “This would ensure students are getting good instruction.”
The LAUSD passed a preliminary budget, as required by state law; however, it needs to pass the real deal by June 30.
Negotiations remain ongoing with labor unions.
“We are going to do whatever we can do to close the $408-million budget deficit -- and growing -- so we don’t have to let teachers, magnet coordinators and other valuable staff go,” said Tom Waldman, chief of staff for Tamar Galatzan who represents Chatsworth schools on the Los Angeles School Board.
The economic recession remains one of historic magnitude.
Right now, the city, the state and LAUSD are all facing terrible budget situations, Waldman said.