PA, Nation Continue to Shed Teacher Jobs

The New York Times had an editorial this week (titled "Pink Slips") on the loss of jobs in public schools across the United States, leading off with a look at the drastic job cuts in the Reading School District. The editorial actually ran earlier this week before The Reading Eagle reported this morning that the district is laying off 87 more employees on top of the 110 teachers who already got layoff notices.

The school district in Reading, Pa. — the nation’s poorest city — laid off 110 teachers last week, along with hundreds of other employees. As elementary students watched in shock, many of their favorite teachers were pulled out of an assembly one by one and given the bad news by district officials, The Reading Eagle reported.

The layoffs will mean larger classes and an end to public prekindergarten in the city. Many special-education students will lose their mentors. A city where only 8 percent of the residents have a bachelor’s degree (compared with the national average of 28 percent) will fall further behind, largely because Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, chose not to find state money to replace $900 million in federal aid that ran out after the stimulus expired. Instead, he further drained his public coffers by cutting business taxes by $250 million this year.

... Over the last three years, at least 700,000 state and local government employees have lost their jobs, including teachers, sanitation workers and public safety personnel, contributing a full percentage point to the unemployment rate."

Just yesterday, Pennsylvania released the state jobs report for May, which showed the state unemployment rate unchanged at 7.4%. The Keystone Research Center delved into the numbers a little more deeply and found that much like in 2011 public-sector job losses are contributing to the slow economic growth in 2012.

Pennsylvania's public sector shed 22,700 jobs from December 2010 to December 2011, including some 14,000 jobs in public schools and universities. So far in 2012, the state has shed 5,400 public-sector jobs. If the pattern of public-sector job losses this year is the same as last year (a very big if), Pennsylvania is on track to shed just over 10,000 public-sector jobs in 2012, Keystone estimates.

State budget negotiators are working to restore some of the education funding cuts proposed by the governor, but much of the deep cuts to schools enacted last year are likely to remain. As a survey of school districts last month signaled, that is likely to mean more teachers will be getting pinks slips in the coming weeks and months.

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