Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Patty Murray Wrong By Only One Order Of Magnitude Or Two

Close enough for government work.

With the new school year approaching and 3,000 Washington state teachers facing layoffs, Congress came through with money to save their jobs.

As U.S. Sen. Patty Murray put it on the floor of the Senate last week: “That means 3,000 teachers in Washington state who are right now in limbo, who are spending this summer not knowing if they’ll return to a classroom or a pink slip in the fall.”

Problem is, there aren’t 3,000 teachers in Washington state facing layoffs. Not even close.

A survey of districts conducted by the state Professional Educators Standards Board found that just 445 teachers statewide received reduction-in-force letters last spring.

Since then, many, if not most, have been recalled for the approaching school year. In Sumner, for example, 16 RIF letters were sent out. All but one have been rescinded.

This is a normal pattern. State law and union contracts obligate school districts to let teachers know by mid-May if they might be laid off or have their hours reduced. Many districts err on the high side but end up reducing the layoffs or not having to lay off staff at all.

A University of Washington study found that 91 percent of the 2,000-plus teachers who received RIF letters in 2009 were on the job once school began in September.

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