ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District on Friday issued layoff notices to five tenured teachers and is preparing to lay off an additional 200 un-tenured teachers before the end of the school year.
ASD Chief Human Resources Officer Todd Hess says the cuts are due to uncertainty over when the Alaska legislature will pass a state budget and how much funding will be allocated to the district when it does.
“State statute requires us to notify non-tenured teachers by the last day of school. Based on prior experience, it’s doubtful the state legislature will have concluded their business by then,” Hess told reporters at a press conference Friday morning. “With the uncertainty that the school district is facing with funding, we have to be prepared to meet our financial obligations.”
Hess says if funding comes through after the school year, some of those positions may be recalled, meaning the exact number of projected job losses for the school district is unclear at this point.
“I don't know what the final number will be, but we will go into next school year with fewer teachers,” he said. “We have not experienced a situation like this in a long time."
ASD says the process of deciding who will receive the additional 200 layoffs is still ongoing, but the focus will likely be on teachers who have been with the district for only one or two years. However, the five layoffs announced on Friday were for teachers with multiple years experience, a move that Anchorage Education Association President Brinna Wojtalewicz said was particularly surprising.
“Tenured teachers have experience, they’ve been in the district, they know what they’re doing, they really are working hard for the students and a lot of them have formed great connections with the students,” Wojtalewicz told Channel 2. “So now giving them a pink slip and saying we don’t know if you’re going to be back next year, causes uncertainty for them and the students as well.”
While the layoffs will almost certainly result in larger class sizes and other more immediate issues for the district next school year, Hess says they could also make it harder to hire new teachers in the future.
“Alaska is not a tough sell. Financial uncertainty and teacher layoffs is a tough sell,” he said. “It's difficult to convince people to come up here, move 3,000 miles and re-establish their lives with the uncertainty as to whether or not they'll have a job in a few months.”