Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Pink Friday in California

No, "Pink Friday" has nothing to do the ongoing battle to overturn Proposition 8, or anything to do with Gay Rights at all. "Pink Friday" refers to termination notices, often called "pink slips," and that the California Constitution mandates that local school districts notify teachers of any layoffs for the coming school year by March 15 each year.

As the last workday before March 15, today is the day when an estimated 25,000+ teachers throughout the state will receive notice that their services will likely not be needed for the 2009-10 school year. Well, actually, they'll be needed; they just won't be funded.

In Santa Clara County it will be about 1,000 teachers receiving their pink slips today. But that 1,000 will not be evenly distributed throughout the county. In the Cupertino district (where my wife works), they have managed to make other last-minute budget adjustments, and last week announced there would be no teacher layoffs this year. Needless to say, districts that aren't also home to companies like Apple or Hewlett Packard will not fare as well.

In many parts of the state, there will be protests today in support of teachers. But they're not likely to do much good.

Like the March 15 mandated deadline, the budget crunch is coming from Sacramento, where legislators "solved" their budget deadlock by overturning the people's commitment to funding schools and early childhood education.

Although we're now nine months into the 2008-09 Fiscal Year, the budget (which was only passed last month) will not be official until after a May 19 special election, which will ask the people to ratify the legislature's reworking of five previous ballot measures. These include voter approved minimums for funding K-12 education, early childhood programs (First 5), and mental health funding, as well as "borrowing" against future lottery earnings.

Not among the special ballot initiatives: modifying the 2/3 vote requirement for the legislature to pass a budget. California is one of only a handful of states that requires such a super-majority to pass its annual budget. This 2/3 super-majority has allowed a vocal minority (34%) in the legislature to stalemate and bankrupt the state.

And on Pink Friday, it's teachers who get to pick up the tab. Oh, and the kids? They'll do just fine as class sizes increase ... won't they?

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