TRENTON—Most New Jersey public school districts will reopen next month with fewer teachers, larger class sizes and/or reduced programs, according to survey results released this week by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
Since February, school districts have experienced two state funding cuts amounting to $1.2 billion, as well as reductions to proposed local tax levies made by municipal officials following widespread budget defeats by voters in April.
To assess the impact of the financial cutbacks on classroom staffing and programs, NJSBA surveyed local school officials from May 25 through June 29. Approximately 40 percent of the state’s operating school districts responded to the survey. While the survey results do not produce a comprehensive number of teaching staff reductions, they do identify trends in classroom staffing.
Eighty-one percent (81%) of the school officials responding to the survey said their districts would reduce teaching staff in 2010-2011. Almost half of the responding school districts said the teaching staff reductions represent up to 5 percent of 2009-2010 staffing levels. Another 36.6 percent of districts estimate that the layoffs will reduce teaching staff by 6 to 10 percent.
Sixteen percent (16%) indicated they would reduce staff size by more than 10 percent, with the number of layoffs exceeding 100 teachers in some larger school systems.
NJSBA’s most recent survey did not address non-teaching positions. However, an earlier survey, conducted in March, showed that 92.8 percent of responding school districts planned to lay off staff, with many citing losses of administrative positions, guidance counselors and librarians, as well as non-certified employees.
Causes of Layoffs
An overwhelming majority (73.4%) of respondents to NJSBA’s most recent survey identified “state school aid cuts” as the primary cause of the teaching staff reductions. Approximately 8 percent attributed the layoffs to municipal reductions of voter-defeated school budgets in April. Over 6 percent cited enrollment decline as a reason for the cuts, while 4.5 percent said teaching staff reductions resulted from long-term financial planning. The remaining districts (8%) indicated that a combination of two or more of those factors contributed to the teaching staff cuts.
Impact of Staff Reductions
Over 42 percent of respondents cited “larger class size” as the primary outcome of the reductions in teaching staff; 34.5 percent said the layoffs would result in elimination of programs; and 10.2 percent said staff cuts would have “no negative impact.” Over 7 percent of responding districts said the staff reductions would result in “fewer course offerings.”
Impact on Teachers
A large proportion of responding school officials (42.4%) said that the reductions in force affected positions held by tenured teaching staff.
For non-tenured teachers, school districts must issue notification by May 15 of their intention not to renew employment for the following school year. Decisions not to renew may be based on financial factors, enrollment projections or job performance. NJSBA’s survey indicated that four-fifths of school districts issued non-renewal notices to non-tenured teachers this year. Of these districts—
- 20.6 percent sent lay-off notices to all non-tenured teachers.
- 8.5 percent notified more than half of their non-tenured teachers of their intention not to renew their contracts for 2010-2011.
- Close to 42 percent of districts issued such notices to one-tenth to half of their non-tenured teachers.
Federal Ed Jobs Bill
The survey results underscore the importance of the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund Amendment. Depending on the timeframe and procedures for allocating funds, the provision might help school districts restore some teaching positions if it is approved.
New Jersey is expected to receive $268 million through the federal legislation, part of the administration’s economic stimulus program. According to the National School Boards Association, states must award the funds “for the support of elementary and secondary education to retain or create education jobs for the 2010-11 school year” or for both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.
Prior to the prospect of Congressional approval of the Education Jobs Fund Amendment, over 37 percent of school districts indicated that they anticipated offering employment to some of the non-tenured staff members who were given layoff notices in May. If the $268 million in federal funds becomes available to New Jersey school districts in time for the 2010-2011 school year, that percentage could grow.
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