Layoffs: the last resort - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Layoffs: the last resort

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Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003 10:35 pm | Updated: 2:10 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

At best it was disingenous of Scottsdale Unified School District officials to announce — four days after voters passed a budget override designed to save teachers’ jobs — that they were going to lay off teachers.

The targeted teachers weren’t the same teachers who would have been laid off had the override failed, parents, voters and taxpayers were told; the ones now facing the unemployment line were going to be laid off anyway.

At the least, we’re mystified about this. Seasoned politicos would find it to have been in the district’s interest to inform the pro-override citizens’ commitee, Yes to Children, of the situation before the March 11 override election. That way, Yes to Children could have announced something to the effect that budgetary conditions are so bad that teachers were going to be laid off no matter what, so please vote yes to save the jobs of some of them, keeping class sizes at least somewhat smaller.

But that’s not what happened. Needless to say, teachers’ jobs and other classroom costs should be the last items to be cut from a district’s budget during difficult economic times. We can all point to district superintendents’ salaries and moan convincingly, but halving all superintendents’ pay would hardly put a dent in most teacher layoffs.

Scottsdale — and similarly strapped school districts — need to break out of decades-old paradigms about school budgeting and move away from so many expenses that tradition, not law, dictates:

Intensify scrutiny in determining the need to hire additional administrators in the district headquarters. Outsource clerical help instead of hiring them in-house. Round up more volunteers — particularly among retired educators — to serve as teachers’ aides. Organize parent groups to perform landscaping and lawn care at schools, instead of paying groundskeepers. Incorporate public transit to get older kids to and from school would reduce the school bus fleet.

Transform high schools with empty seats into magnet schools could offer hot curriculums in high-tech and fine arts, for example, taught so well that parents beg to send their children across town to attend them.

A district that’s poised to lay off 170 teachers four days after receiving voter approval for a $10 million maintenance-and-operations budget override isn’t trying hard enough to reallocate resources and creatively come up with smarter ways to educate that cost less. Voters and taxpayers should insist on this — and not take “sorry, there’s nothing we can do” for an answer.

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