Schools Are Preparing for Widespread Teacher Layoffs Across the U.S., and Here’s Why 

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The U.S. education system is bracing for layoffs of teachers and administrative school workers since the impending expiration of federal pandemic aid is set to dry up by the end of September. To make matters worse, declining enrollments and inflation are pushing school districts into making dreaded decisions. 

First announcements 


Missoula County Public Schools in Montana announced it would lay off 46 people, including 33 teachers and 13 administrative positions. Superintendent Micah Hill confirmed the news, adding that the last time this happened was a generation ago. Hill also confirmed that the school is letting go of the special education and fine arts directors.

Dire numbers 


Missoula County Public Schools’s superintendent explained that the district lost 500 students in the last five years apart from ending federal aid. With rising utilities and insurance costs, layoffs seemed the only viable option. Hill’s statement to CNN is only one example of what school districts are going through.

Connecticut has an age problem 


Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut confirmed that 30 teachers and 79 other staff members will be let go. Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said in a statement sent to CNN that this is an ongoing issue. The school’s enrollment has dropped 21% in the past 15 years, partly due to a decline in the school-age population. 

Moses Lake School District confirms layoffs 


The Moses Lake School Board in Washington passed a budget resolution on May 11 that would lead to firing up to 100 teachers and staffers. The district has a $20 million deficit, and combined with the end of federal aid and a drop in enrollment, none of the proposed budget cuts would be enough to cover the shortage. 

Arlington to eliminate 275 positions 


Arlington, Texas, is preparing to eliminate 275 school district positions funded by federal aid. Among those who are being laid off are staffers who helped with mental health and after-school care. The positive news is that those who get fired will be able to apply for other positions. 

Worcester schools face a $22 million budget deficit

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The Worcester Public Schools in Massachusetts addressed the deficit, and the reductions will include 45 elementary school and 41 high school teaching positions. First on the line of firing will be teachers with less than three years of experience, Superintendent Rachel Monárrez confirmed. 

The funding began in March 2020


Between March 2020 and March 2021, Congress authorized $190 billion for K-12 schools. That is nearly six times more than the federal government gave in a regular year. Online schooling was not a solution, as we learned from test scores from the 2022-23 school year.

Some suggested over 300,00 layoffs

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Education analyst Chad Aldeman went as far as suggesting that returning to pre-pandemic levels could lead to over 384,000 firings. At the same time, many districts are dealing with a shortage of teachers, mainly in rural areas. Though the layoffs are raising many questions, there is almost certainty that the districts hit the most will be the poorest ones.

Poor districts will be affected the most


Heather Peske, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, stated that students attending higher-poverty districts are the most affected. This is due to the distribution of federal funding. If things go to pre-pandemic levels, economically disadvantaged students will once again face the gap that hasn’t narrowed in the past five decades.

Seniority to play a role in layoffs 

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Peske said most firings would target recent hires, regardless of teachers’ performance. Seniority will be one of the main criteria for choosing who will be laid off, and it could deprive students of the most effective teachers. Peske added that some teachers, like math and science educators, who are highly in demand, should be offered a level of protection. 

The money was not wasted

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Despite many shortcomings, the federal funding was used to supply some students with laptops and to fill budget gaps in school districts. But, learning losses are the biggest concern and will be hard to address. It is believed that an average student lost half a year of learning in math. 

The consequences 


The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported in 2023 that math scores were the lowest in the last three decades. Children also fail reading, and test scores were not this low in the past two decades. But, looking at the broader picture, if students don’t reach satisfying levels, they will lose future earnings and may even become a burden on the economy. 

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.