Fewer layoff notices given out at SLO County schools this year

For many teachers in San Luis Obispo County, Friday passed by like any other busy school day — likely a pleasant contrast from the past few years where layoff notices on March 15 had become an annual norm.

But several dozen teachers, counselors and librarians received a preliminary layoff notice before Friday, the deadline for districts to alert their employees they may be without a job next school year. Final layoff notices must be issued by May 15.

The notices affect more than 40 employees in four of the county’s 10 public K-12 school districts, including the Cayucos, Paso Robles, Templeton and San Luis Coastal districts.

The San Luis Coastal school district board, with schools in Los Osos, Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is considering the largest number of layoffs in more than a decade.

Still, the overall numbers throughout the county are lower than in previous years, in which a succession of budget cuts siphoned about $50 million from the county’s 10 districts over a five-year period, resulting in layoffs, larger class sizes, cuts to programs and services, and furloughs.

The passage of temporary tax measure Proposition 30 in November helped stop the bleeding, but it won’t recoup money cut from districts’ budgets in the past five years.

Without it “we would have been in a more serious predicament,” said Ruben Canales, the Paso Robles district’s human resources director.

If the proposition had not passed, local education officials estimated the 10 public school districts in the county would have lost an additional $15.6 million this school year — about $456 per student.

Statewide, the lower number of layoff notices this March is being attributed to Proposition 30, according to nonprofit organization EdSource.

As of Thursday, about 2,500 teachers and other employees had received notices statewide, according to Frank Wells, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association.

That’s down 87 percent from the 20,000 “pink slips” issued last year and just a 10th of the 26,000 notices issued in 2010, the peak year during the recession, EdSource reported.

Over the past few years in San Luis Obispo County, hundreds of teachers, counselors and other credentialed employees routinely received a layoff notice by March 15. Some were rescinded before the next school year; others were not.

In 2010, for example, about 185 teachers, counselors and other credentialed employees received an initial layoff notice.

The worst year for the Lucia Mar school district was 2009, when the district issued 229 layoff notices to teachers while trying to close a $9.4 million shortfall. This year, it isn’t handing out any.

The Paso Robles school district, due in part to declining enrollment, issued notices to nine people, including seven elementary school teachers, one middle school teacher and another teacher in a district position.

Canales said he hopes to be able to rescind the notices. “We’ve already received a number of resignations due to retirement, though not all at elementary level,” Canales said. “It’s still early.”

The San Luis Coastal district, facing a $6 million deficit, could eliminate nearly 29 positions.

They include 10 elementary counselors equaling eight positions (some are part-time), three middle and high school counselors, four librarians and a handful of instructional coaches, English-language-learner teachers and other supplemental teaching positions.

The Templeton school district recently voted to issue notices to four full-time positions and to reduce hours for other specific positions.

An employee at the Cayucos school district office said notices are being issued, but more information on the positions affected was not available Friday.