Karin Wehsener wasn’t laid off — but it sure felt like it as she packed her classroom up into boxes on Wednesday. Her SUV was so loaded with books, papers and posters that one box fell, scattering colored scissors across the parking lot at Field Elementary in Clairemont. She set down her boxes and started picking them up.
“I’m just so disappointed that I’m being let go,” she said.
Wehsener, a seasoned teacher who just returned to the field, was hired last August on a temporary contract that only lasts a single year. So she never had to be laid off. This is nothing new: Temporary teachers like Wehsener have long been a fixture in schools, where they fill in for teachers who are on leave or staff programs that are paid for with earmarked funding from the state or the federal government. Their salaries, benefits and working conditions are the same as those of permanent teachers.
But with budgets going south, school districts have more and more reasons to hire and cut loose teachers on temporary contracts, including the one-time-only rush of stimulus funds. And while many teachers are relieved to find jobs at all, labor leaders are worried that the phenomenon could mean a less stable, less empowered workforce that can be dismissed more easily.
School officials say it is a prudent move while districts are being gored by the growing California deficit — now estimated at $24 billion — which has led to a proposed $5.3 billion in cuts to K-12 schools statewide.
“Every time we turn around, we have to keep adjusting numbers,” said Steve Lombard, spokesman for the Oceanside Unified School District. “There’s talk of, ‘They might do this, they might do that.’ It seems like the state doesn’t understand. Or they just don’t care.”