Teachers' jobs safe — for now

By Sam Inglot

Lansing's interim superintendent doesn’t see layoffs this coming year, despite budget woes

Even with tight budget constraints, the superintendent of the Lansing School District is not expecting teacher layoffs this fall.

Look out for 2013, though.

“We don’t anticipate any layoffs for next year with the teachers group,” Yvonne Caamal Canul said, referring to the fiscal year that begins July 1. “It’s possible that something will have to give the year after.”

Of the district’s $175 million budget, 85 percent is paid to personnel expenses, Caamal Canul said on the “City Pulse Newsmakers” TV show, which means frozen pay and benefits for next year but no layoffs. Of the 85 percent, 70 percent is spent on teachers.

The Lansing School District will be left with about $550,000 in savings next year after it spends a projected $9.3 million to cover the new fiscal year’s deficit, officials announced in May. The district and the Lansing Schools Education Association, made up of 900 district teachers, are engaged in bargaining discussions. Patti Seidl, LSEA vice president, said the administration was at least “not planning to displace or layoff teachers in the manner of previous years.”

Last year 60 teachers were laid off and 90 teachers were “displaced” from their position within the district, Seidl said. The layoffs occurred with “no regard” for teacher specialization or district need. The bottom 60 were cut based solely on seniority.

Seidl expects the district to lose 200 to 300 students next year based on natural depreciation and possibly more after the district reconfiguration. A lower student count could lead to fall layoffs. She said they’ll know about any layoffs within four weeks of the start of school.

“A year from now is going to be a big cut year,” Seidl said. “The deficit is going to hit us hard.”

Caamul Canul confirmed that view.

“Everyone has been alerted: Next year is going to be a very tough year for budget decisions for the following year,” Caamal Canul said. “So, everyone has a lead year to understand that our budgeting process for the following year will begin in September of this year, and there will need to be significant cuts in the district with regards to programming efforts and keeping in mind that our core mission is instruction.”

The district was actually supposed to save money, to the tune of $2.5 million, because of several building closings in the new reconfiguration plan but a possible state-required all day kindergarten program may cancel those savings.

Other increases are expected in health-care and retirement costs.

With frozen salaries this coming year, can teachers expect any increased benefits to make up for it, Caamal Canul was asked.

“I could be altruistic and say what we could give them is a lot of support, positive feedback and a good listening ear,” she said. “I think many districts are facing this incredible dilemma. I like to believe that there is something we can do for our teaching staff — they work so hard. It’s just not the way it used to be when I started in education.”