Timing: it's everything

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State and district policy is all over the place when it comes to setting deadlines for issuing the dreaded pink slip. Some teachers get "pink slipped" in March, others in May, but none may in fact ever be laid off. 

For example, Rhode Island and California notify teachers in March that they will be let go. North Dakota and South Dakota notify teachers by April. And in the 33 states that leave it up to districts, most districts err on the side of "the sooner the better" for sending out these notices.

Early deadlines were likely intended as a means to give laid off teachers ample time to hunt down a new job. But is the anxiety from knowing that you might lose your job months before you'll know for sure really worth it? Surely that can't translate well to classroom performance or school culture for the rest of the school year. 

Additionally, way more pink slips end up getting handed out than turn out to be necessary. Early spring layoff notices are based on incomplete budgetary information, as states have until the start of the new fiscal year— which for all but four states starts on July 1—to finalize budgets. In short, the pink-slip anxiety and dread is often for naught.

A sensible set of recommendations out of the California Legislative Analyst Office suggests pushing back the notification dates and better aligning them with state budget approval so that states and districts have more accurate information before issuing notices. And as more and more states begin to consider teacher performance in making layoff decisions, why not also issue pink slip notifications after final evaluations are due and after the budget is passed. Now that would be timing.

Sarah Brody