California Educator

February/March 2023

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S C H O O L L A Y O F F S are a difficult and, unfortunately, all-too- common feature of the spring semester. Although nobody likes thinking about reductions in force (RIFs), it's important to know the basics in order to protect your rights. Below is a summary of the rules of school layoffs and the steps that you can take to prepare and protect yourself. This summary is focused on certificated employees in K-12 (non-charter) schools and community colleges, but much of it applies sim- ilarly to classified employees. The Basics of School Layoffs If a school district faces budgetary shortfalls or declining enrollment, or if it decides to cut services, it may lay off part of its staff. But when conducting the layoff, the district must follow certain strict rules. First, layoff notices have to go out by March 15. If March 15 passes and your employer has not yet sent out a layoff notice addressed to you, that means that you cannot be laid off this year. Second, districts must follow certain rules in deciding whom to lay off. In most cases, the order of layoff must be based on credentials and qualifications; seniority dates; probationary vs. permanent status; and experience. In some circumstances, the district may also consider specialized training and education. In general, this means that once a district decides to reduce a service area, it must — with a few exceptions — first lay off the most junior probationary employees who work in that service area. So, for example, if your district decides to reduce multiple subject classes, it will lay off the most junior probationary teachers who teach in multiple subject classrooms. The district will hold a hearing before a judge, who will evaluate whether the district followed the rules in deciding whom to lay off. If the district laid off a teacher out of order — for example, by laying off a senior English teacher while retaining junior English teachers — and no exception applies, the judge will decide that the senior teacher cannot be laid off. Importantly, since the hearing takes place after March 15, it is too late for the district to correct its error by laying off the junior teachers. By attending the hearing and asserting their rights, the senior teacher will thus be able to save their own job, without endangering their junior colleagues. Many RIFs settle without the need for a hearing. If this is Steps you can take to prepare and protect yourself By Jean Shin What Educators Should Know School Layoffs: 32 Advocacy Legal Beat

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