Fewer teachers get layoff notices across Sonoma County

For the second year in a row, Sonoma County has seen a dramatic drop in the number of layoff notices issued to teachers whose jobs are vulnerable to being cut for the 2014-15 school year.

Slightly more than 26 teaching jobs across Sonoma County's 40 school districts and the county office of education could be eliminated in the fall, well below the 70 pink slips issued last year. Layoff warnings peaked at nearly 200 in 2009 as districts grappled with deep budget cuts that forced increased class sizes, shortened school years and shuttered programs.

A stabilized state budget, as well as voter-approved Proposition 30 in November 2012, are credited with the dramatic drop in layoff notices.

"There is more certainty in the state budget that we are not going to have reductions for 2014-15," said Denise Calvert, deputy superintendent of business services for the Sonoma County Office of Education. "No one is losing money next year, so that could be the reason for the reduction" in layoff notices, she said.

The state requires districts to alert permanent and probationary teachers by March 15 if their positions could be eliminated in the following school year. The numbers do not include temporary teachers who are notified each year that their spots in the classroom are not guaranteed.

School districts have until May 15 to either rescind layoff warnings or make them final. Many district officials said they are formulating ways to keep teachers who were given notice by today's deadline.

Fifteen, well over half, of those notices were issued by the Sonoma Office of Education, which is undergoing an overhaul of how special education services are provided.

Under the new Local Control Funding Formula which outlines how education officials spend money, districts will get additional money for providing special education service instead of contracting through the county office of education, according to county superintendent Steve Herrington.

"It's the best placement for students, being run by their own districts. That is the philosophy behind it," he said.

"We have had good lead time. We have worked with our teachers unit," he said.

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