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The pink slip game

Photo Courtesy of Los Altos Town Crier
While going through my email today, I received a press release from California Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, who has drafted litigation that is designed to help mitigate the "cruel" pink slip game which occurs annually in California.

Essentially, school districts in California are required to issue tentative pink-slips to teachers by March 15 every year. Over the years, this has resulted in many teachers playing a guessing game about whether they will be employed for the following year. Usually a large percentage of teachers find out in July, that they ultimately will be teaching again the following year.

So why do we put teachers through this situation? School districts have to cover their own financial behinds by handing out the worst-case scenario of pink slips, based on preliminary information they have received regarding the state budget. Basically, school districts have to prepare for a rainy day, if that is what happens should the state make all the cuts they threaten every year.

When teachers receive pink slips, it is demoralizing and really hurts morale. I've covered many years of this practice, one in particular where a teacher spoke with me and actually showed her pink slip, which is indeed printed on pink paper.

It's rough to be first-year teacher in California. Often these are the teachers left in limbo, wondering if they should look for another job or if they should remain faithful to the district they are teaching in. With a large group of older-generation teachers retiring each year, new teachers are needed in California.

I've been told by people in education that within the first two years of teaching, a person can really tell whether or not they were meant to teach. I hope this pink slip game that California plays isn't dissuading potentially talented teachers away from the classroom.

This new legislation, would change the deadline for tentative pink-slips to June 1, a lot closer to the finalization of the annual state budget, and after the May Revise of the budget (which I know first hand to give the district a lot more clarity as to what the final state budget will include). This hopefully would mitigate the number of pink slips handed out, and getting one wouldn't mean so much of a guessing game.

Another part of this new legislation pushes out the final pink-slip notice from May 15 to August 1. This is the one the teacher's are going to take issue with, as it leaves so little time (two weeks) for them to find another job if they actually do get a pink slip. And the California Teacher's Union is a powerful beast.

So while I do like the intent of this bill, I wonder why we couldn't just push out the final notice to sometime in July or something, so teachers are still given a respectable amount of time to find other employment if that is the case.

And what about retirements? In the district I cover, teachers don't have any sort of an annual deadline to announce retirements. Why not make an annual deadline to announce retirements for the following year? Knowing this sort of information ahead of time would also save the districts from having to deliver pink slip notifications.

Anyway, just because I cover education in my day-to-day job does not make me a complete expert on the subject. I was just very interested to see this legislation going forward, though it does need some tweaks for sure.

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