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State sees steep fall in teacher pink slips

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POSTED March 17, 2013 5:44 p.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California teachers are seeing a steep drop in pink slips, thanks to a strengthening economy and new revenue from voter-approved taxes.

The California Teachers Association said 2,900 educators in districts the union represents received preliminary layoff notices just before Friday's statewide deadline for districts to warn teachers they could lose their jobs.

By contrast, about 22,000 teachers, nurses and counselors got pink slips by the March 15 deadline, according to the CTA, which represents 95 percent of California's K-12 educators.

School districts typically rescind most of the preliminary pink slips later in the year, but agencies are required to issue them if there's a chance employees could be laid off at the end of the school year. In recent years, uncertainty over the state budget has prompted districts to hand out the notices in large numbers. 

After years of teacher layoffs that led to larger class sizes, the outlook for California schools has brightened because of the economic recovery and the November passage of Proposition 30, which temporarily increases the state sales tax and raises taxes on high-income earners.

Since 2008, the state's teacher workforce has declined by 8.5 percent to about 284,000 educators today, according to the California Department of Education.

After voters approved his tax measure in November, Gov. Jerry Brown in January proposed a state budget that boosts K-12 funding by 4 percent next school year, according the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

CTA President Dean Vogel said a more stable state budget gives school districts a better sense of how much funding they can expect next school year.

"They are in a much better place to determine their budgets than in years past," Vogel said.

In Sacramento County, fewer than 350 educators received pink slips this year, down from 1,700 issued last year and 2,500 two years ago.

"What is different this year is that we're optimistic that attrition will eat up layoff notices and then some," said Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jonathan Raymond. "It could put us in the position to hire teachers."

Katie Rector, a Sacramento elementary school teacher, said for the first time in her five-year career, she avoided a layoff warning she had come to expect every spring. She lived with uncertainty each summer before being rehired just a few days before school began.

"It was very frustrating, never knowing what is going to happen," Rector said. "I had to calm myself down. Not knowing in the summer is very, very scary."

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