Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Bill would delay Arizona deadline on job-cut notifications for teachers

PHOENIX – Arizona lawmaker are far from deciding school funding and the rest of the state budget for the next fiscal year.

That’s why top Republican legislative leaders are moving to postpone deadlines for notifying teachers that they won’t have jobs again in the fall.

An emergency bill introduced Monday by House Speaker Kirk Adams of Mesa and Senate President Bob Burns of Peoria would set a June 15 deadline for districts to tell recently hired teachers that their contracts may not be renewed. The current deadline is April 15. A May 15 deadline for teachers with more seniority also would be extended to June 15.

The recession and the housing industry’s collapse have hammered state tax collections with no end in sight. Lawmakers have closed a $1.6 billion shortfall in the then-$9.9 billion budget but now face another shortfall in that budget as well as a much bigger one in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

While a union leader said postponements would just string teachers along, legislators say they want to provide districts with flexibility and avoid alarming school personnel unnecessarily as budget work progresses.

“We don’t want panic in schools,” said House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, R-Paulden. “The schools shouldn’t have to be issuing (reduction-in-force) notices.”

Arizona Education Association President John Wright said postponements “just delay some tough decisions” and would make it harder for teachers to find other work.

“It’s not like we’re going to have a budget by June 15 anyway,” he said. The last three state budgets were all approved after June 15, the current one just three days before the June 30 end of the previous fiscal year.

Even with postponements, some districts likely will send out nonrenewal notices to teachers before June 15, Wright said.

“It’s a combination of districts wanting to be responsible in their planning and trying to tell their employees what to expect,” Wright said.

Leaders of some large school districts have already said they may shed hundreds of teachers, creating the prospect of large numbers of nonrenewal notices going out across the state and heightening the pressure on lawmakers to avoid painful cuts in funding for K-12 schools.

The Capitol has already been the site of several large budget-related protests, including a union-backed March 4 rally that drew thousands of teachers and other public education backers as Gov. Jan Brewer urged lawmakers to consider a mix of spending cuts, use of federal stimulus money and a temporary tax increase.

Midyear budget cuts hit K-12 schools lighter than many other state programs, but school officials have expressed deep concern about what could happen in the next budget. Options under consideration include eliminating all-day kindergarten and suspending funding for textbooks, computers and other equipment.

With the state’s “ugly” fiscal situation, the June 15 postponement would be “a huge relief” to many school districts’ boards and employees, an Arizona School Boards Association official said.

“Overall the big benefit to everybody is a little bit of settling of nerves and apprehension about whether people have jobs or not,” said Panfilo Contreras, ASBA executive director.

Rep. Ben Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat and a school board member, said the extra time would be welcome because state policymakers and school officials are still determining how federal stimulus money can be used to help education.

“Any time we can alleviate some of the anxiety and concerns teachers have out there or anybody in the education system that’s good in view of the historic situation that we’re facing now,” Miranda said. “Most school districts are going to delay their budgets pretty late this year.”

A House committee plans to consider the bill (HB 2630) Tuesday.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service