An August 31st press release by the Department of Public Instruction declared that this fall, the public schools will eliminate more than 6,300 positions and layoff more than 2,400 school staff—including over 530 teachers – from existing positions. A spreadsheet attached to the same document details how North Carolina public schools have lost more than 8 percent of school staff since 2008-09. The news has garnered considerable media attention. In recent weeks, Democrat legislators and the North Carolina Association of Educators have used the numbers to publicize what they believe to be the adverse impacts of widespread job losses and also to build opposition to Republican budget plans for public education.
But what actual impact has the budget had on staffing levels for large schools? To answer that question we looked at staff and employment figures for the 20 largest Local Education Agencies (LEAs) across North Carolina for the 2011-12 budget year (See Table I). Data in the table includes total positions eliminated and RIF (reduction in force) positions eliminated (which represents actual staff being laid off). What we found is not consistent with the stories circulating in the press about budget cutbacks and sweeping staff reductions.
Table I (See note at end of article)
|2011-12Positions Eliminated||2011-12 RIF Positions||2011-12 Teacher Layoffs||Total LEA Employment ||RIF as a Percentage of LEA Workforce|
|Guilford County Schools||64||0||0||9,545||0%|
|Forsyth County Schools||223||25||20||6,681||3.7%|
|Cumberland Cty. Schools||386||282||125||6,807||4.1%|
|Union County Schools||123||0||0||5,037||0%|
|Johnston County Schools||172||168||31||3,963||4.2%|
|Durham Public Schools||158||0||0||3,913||0%|
|Gaston County Schools||147||147||72||3,536||4.1|
|Cabarrus County Schools||66||28||0||3,498||.8%|
|Buncombe County Schools||105||96||8||3,135||3%|
|New Hanover County Schools||219||51||0||3,199||1.5%|
|Onslow County Schools||152||0||0||2,752||0%|
|Robeson County Schools||141||135||0||3,411||3.9%|
|Pitt County Schools||57||15||0||2,855||.5%|
|Davidson County Schools||45||0||7||2,322||0%|
|Harnett County Schools||80||60||0||2,211||2.7%|
- Size of the Reductions: On average, the number of 2011-12 RIF layoffs constituted only 1.65 percent of the total local workforce. Layoffs as a percentage of LEA workforce ranged from .2% (Rowan-Salisbury Schools) to 4.2% (Johnston County).
- Scope of Job Loss: On average, a large LEA will eliminate approximately 70 positions and layoff 13.5 teachers in 2011-12.
- Teacher Layoffs: Interestingly, twelve of the twenty largest LEAs reported no teacher layoffs for the 2011-2012 current school year. Among the LEAs reporting no teacher layoffs are the three largest LEAs in North Carolina: Wake County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Guilford County Schools.
- Larger LEAs = Larger Teacher Layoffs? The two largest LEAs (Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) eliminated 1,133 positions – with no teacher layoffs.
- Reduction-in-Force Options: Five of the 20 largest districts, including three of the 10 largest LEAs, report no Reduction in Force (RIF) losses. In addition, four of the five LEAs with no RIF losses– Guilford, Union, Durham and Onslow County – have no reported teacher layoffs for 2011-12.
The Other Side of the Story
While the 2011-12 staff reductions are real, one aspect of the discussion that seems to be forgotten is that the budget reductions and job losses are far from unprecedented. Table II chronicles position eliminations and reduction-in-force actions (i.e. layoffs) for the years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. The Department of Public Instruction chose the year 2008-09 because that was the first year LEAs experienced significant job losses. However, as the table details, the subsequent two years also saw significant job losses While it is true the magnitude of the losses varies by year and district, the pattern of job losses over three years is the point that seems to be ignored by a press and educational establishment convinced the current budget reductions are without precedent.
A quick review of job loss data for the 20 largest LEAs for the years 2008-09 through 2010-11 (See Table II) shows that the current year reductions merely continue a well-established trend.
Wake County Public Schools
|Charlotte-Meck. Public Schools||255.9||3||967.3||987||815.8||530|
|Guilford County Public Schools||22||0||292.4||0||53.2||0|
|Forysth County Public Schools||0||0||67||12||35.5||0|
|Cumberland County Public Schools||6.5||0||23.9||0||0||0|
|Union County Schools||0||0||218||37||297||32|
|Johnston Count y Schools||1||1||84.6||83.6||3.5||171.5|
|Durham County Schools||0||0||253||40||166||0|
|Gaston County Schools||26||53||57||57||45||45|
|Cabarrus County Schools||0||0||67.5||28||13.5||0|
|Buncombe County Schools||0||0||115||112.5||21.5||19.5|
|New Hanover County Schools||0||0||172||0||36||0|
|Onslow County Schools||0||0||286||0||32||0|
|Robeson County Schools||0||0||7||0||0||0|
|Pitt County Schools||0||0||120||1||0||0|
|Davidson County Schools||1.5||0||106||0||1.5||0|
|Harnett County Schools||0||0||47||47||0||0|
- Job Loss Over Time: Three year (2008-09 – 2010-11) job loss totals: 6,227 eliminated positions; 2,455 reduction-in-force actions
- Average Losses: Average number of positions eliminated annually = 2,075.5; Average number of RIF action in the same districts = 818.3. This compares to 3,320 (positions eliminated) and 1,492 (RIF actions) for the same categories in 2011-12.
- Similarities between 2009-10 and 2011-12: Number of eliminated positions: 4,078 in 2009-10; 3,320 in 2011-12. RIF actions: 1,492 in 2009-10 and 1,395 in 2011-12.
- LEA Job Losses: Thirteen of the 20 largest LEAs actually eliminated more positions in 2009-10, than in 2011-12, including four of the five largest LEAs. Twelve of the 20 largest LEAs expect larger RIF actions (i.e. layoffs) in 2011-12 than in 2009-10. The average RIF reduction among the 12 LEAs is 87. Half of the twelve LEAs expect no teacher RIFs in 2011-12.
The current budget reductions for North Carolina public schools are far from unprecedented. For many of the largest LEAs, 2011-12 losses will be similar in scope to those of 2009-10, a reality conveniently forgotten by many educators and lawmakers. Telling that story and realizing state and local decision makers can no longer delay making tough choices are steps that will help put our schools on solid financial footing and will pay healthy dividends for students, parents and taxpayers for years to come.
Note: Table I reflects updated figures to correct for transcription error. New calculations change RIF as a percentage of workforce from 1.34% to 1.65%