Michelle Apperson, recently awarded the title of "Teacher of the Year" for the Sacramento City Unified School District, has lost her job.
Apperson is one of nearly 400 Sacramento City Unified teachers who received lay-off notices last month due to budget cuts. Neither her nine years at Sutterville Elementary School nor her best-teacher honor could shield her from state law, which carries a "last in, first out" policy, requiring that teachers be laid off by seniority -- starting with the most recently hired.
Sometimes, teachers who are more junior can avoid lay-offs if they are qualified in an area with a teacher shortage -- like special education or math and science -- or can teach across subjects and ages.
"It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do," Apperson told KXTV. "But professionally, politically, I get why it happens."
Sacramento City Unified district officials approved $28 million in cuts this year, the Sacramento Bee reports. The system could see another $15 million in cuts if Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike initiative fails to pass by voters in November, forcing additional furlough days.
"I'm going to think positively and believe that it can be turned around and everybody has a say in November to make education first," Apperson told KXTV.
Under the statewide proposal, a quarter cent would temporarily be added to state sales tax, and those earning $250,000 or more would see higher income taxes. If voters reject the increases, the governor is proposing $6 billion in additional spending cuts, almost all of which would come from K-12 schools. Some districts may have to shorten the school year by up to three weeks.
"Cutting alone really doesn't do it," Brown said last month. "And that's why I'm linking the serious budget reductions -– real increase to austerity –- with a plea to the voters."
2012 year marks the fourth consecutive year in which California has doled out pink slips to teachers, to the point that a new term has emerged -- "the RIFing season," referring to the "reduction in force" letters that notify teachers they may be laid off. The annual practice has created classroom discontinuity and quashed moral.
"I've seen teachers who have cried," Phyllis Bradford, senior director of human resources for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, told the Associated Press. "Others have moved out of state, gone back to school. It's a very depressing time."
Apperson's case in Sacramento is perhaps the clearest example of why many support the end of California's "last in, first out" teacher layoff policy. In a poll conducted last month by StudentsFirst, more than 75 percent of 805 surveyed Californians said they support ending seniority-based teacher layoffs. StudentsFirst Is a national lobbying and advocacy group that pushes for rigorous teacher evaluations and school choice headed by former D.C. Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
"I hate to see any teachers lose their job," parent Kim Ochoa told KXTV. "But when you have teachers who are also winning awards like Ms. Apperson, they shouldn't be cut."