Is Your Child’s School Next? Education Layoffs Spread Fear

Schools across the nation are in for a turbulent few months coming up, as a swathe of layoffs are predicted to hit the sector. 

The Pandemic’s Impact on Schools

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The pandemic had a rough effect on schools. Classrooms went virtual, and teachers and students had to adjust.

Challenges of Online Learning

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Many kids struggled with online learning, and teachers had to juggle the challenges of learning new technology as well as keeping kids engaged over the internet.

Budget Cuts and Staffing Woes

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On top of that, schools faced budget cuts and staffing issues, leading many to close their doors temporarily.

Government Aid

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There was one good takeaway, however, from all this upheaval, and that was that an unprecedented amount of money flowed into K-12 schools from the government.

A Double-Edged Sword

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The government approved around $190 billion in pandemic aid packages between March 2020 and March 2021 in order to help schools tackle the massive challenge of returning to in-person learning. And that money went far – very far, in fact, as schools have been relying on the funds since.

Impending Staff Layoffs

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But with the packages coming to the end of their shelf lives, schools are now scrambling and are forecast to announce mass teacher and staff layoffs come September – when the funding will run out.

Funding Shortfalls and Enrollment Declines

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Districts across the country have warned that layoffs are inevitable as they try to cover funding shortfalls caused by a drop in enrollment and the pressures of inflation.

Missoula, Montana

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For example, in Missoula, Montana, the public school district has warned they might have to cut 33 teaching jobs and 13 administrative roles, including key positions like the special education director and fine arts director.

Enrollment Down

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Enrollment in the Missoula school district has dropped by around 500 students since 2019, while the school’s outgoings have increased substantially.

Arlington, Texas

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Similarly, in Arlington, Texas, the school district is planning to eliminate 275 jobs funded by federal pandemic aid. These roles include tutors and those in charge of students’ mental health services. The district, which employs about 8,500 people, has stated that those affected can apply for other positions within the district.

Hartford, Connecticut

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Hartford School District in Connecticut has announced it will be axing 30 teachers and 79 other staff members. In total, the district plans to cut about 384 positions, including vacancies and roles left open by retiring staff.

New Policies Affecting Enrollment

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Hartford Public Schools have seen a 21% decline in enrollment since 2010, partly due to a policy that allows local students to attend schools in neighboring districts.

Initial Uses of Pandemic Aid

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Initially, schools used the pandemic aid money to reopen safely by purchasing masks, cleaning supplies, and upgrading ventilation systems.

The Liberty to Spend

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Schools had more than three years to spend the last round of money and essentially had the liberty to spend it on whatever the school board wanted. They could hire new teachers and staff, although they knew from the start that this funding was temporary.

Nationwide Impact of Funding End

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While exact estimates are tough to narrow down, a report from CALDER, an education research center, found that in Washington state alone, the federal funding created about 12,000 positions, including over 5,000 classroom teachers. These are the positions that are now at risk as the funding ends.

Drastic Staff Reductions

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According to education analyst Chad Aldeman, if school staffing levels were to return to pre-pandemic numbers, it would mean laying off around 384,000 full-time staff members nationwide.

Low-Income Districts’ Vulnerability

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Districts with more low-income families, which received more federal aid, are at risk of the most severe budget shortfalls and layoffs.

Concerns for Students of Color

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Heather Peske, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, warned that students of color and those in high-poverty districts will likely be the hardest hit.

Seniority-Based Layoffs

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When schools have to let go of staff they often rely on seniority, meaning the newer teachers are the first to go. This might sound fair, but it can mean losing good teachers who have just started.

Protecting High-Demand Educators

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To combat this, Peske suggests that districts should consider teacher performance in layoff decisions to avoid disadvantaging students by losing their best educators. She also recommends protecting high-demand staff, such as math and special education teachers.

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The postIs Your Child’s School Next? Education Layoffs Spread Fear first appeared on Liberty & Wealth.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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