School layoffs are mounting quickly as ESSER winds down

Job cuts are impacting more than just teachers. Dallas ISD will soon remove hundreds of central staff and campus-based roles.

As districts gear up for the 2024-25 school year, seemingly every leader is contending with the elephant in the room: the end of ESSER funding and resulting school layoffs. As a result, folks are making tough decisions in hopes of saving enough to sustain essential programs implemented with the help of pandemic relief dollars.

Take for instance the Dallas Independent School District, which approved a $1.9 billion budget last week. It’s a sizeable amount that will allow for pay bumps for teachers, but hundreds of central staff and campus-based employees will be laid off.

According to The Dallas Morning Newsthe district is challenged with similar issues affecting schools across North Texas, including declining enrollment, insufficient state funding, inflation and the inevitable end of ESSER funds.

“We are in a much better place in Dallas ISD than most other school districts, but financial management is only going to get us so far,” Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said during a budget briefing this month. “If the legislature does not find a way to come together and support public ed, we have one more year of financial stability.”

Despite these cuts, leaders anticipate a $187 million budget shortfall. After accounting for the district’s fund balance, they’ll be left with roughly $552 million in reserves, The Dallas Morning News reports. The cuts will impact nearly 170 full-time central office staff, 55 assistant principals and more than 600 campus-based roles.

School layoffs face pushback

Washington’s Montgomery County Public Schools is experiencing backlash from its teachers who are protesting potential job cuts, NBC Washington reports.

Educators gathered outside a school board meeting last Thursday after the teachers union received word that the district may be forced to slash more than 300 jobs due to a budget shortfall. Those assembled were dressed in red and chanting “Chop from the top!”

“It’s really scary to know that we can lose our benefits,” one teacher told NBC Washington. “We can lose everything and just be laid off.”

Montgomery County’s new budget includes more than $3 billion for schools, although it’s tens of millions less than what many were hoping for. “I’m very concerned about the level of funding for MCPS,” said Councilmember Will Jawando. “The county executive really started this problem by sending a budget that underfunded our schools by $55 million plus.”

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Leaders at Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools also must make some difficult choices. Faced with a $25 million budget deficit, the district’s board of trustees agreed on plans to lay off nearly 100 teachers, Michigan Public reports.

Board President Torchio Feaster said such cuts are necessary, although painful. “We just can’t continue to have ourselves in this kind of position. This is dangerous for our district… and so we have to get in a place where we have a healthy fund balance, and this vote will allow for that.”

Additionally, they’ve agreed to close all middle school pools, reduce co-teacher support for band and music classes and eliminate the elementary world languages program.

According to district officials, most of the shortfall stems from an accounting error, which has been exacerbated by persistent hiring despite enrollment declines.

“They didn’t listen,” union President Fred Klein told Michigan Public. “They continued hiring. And now, they need to right-size and it’s going to be super painful–and we’re really angry about that.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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