UPDATE: Layoffs begin for hundreds in Mesa district

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Educator layoffs begin in Mesa schools
azfamily.com

UPDATE: Monday, April 6

MESA - In the next two weeks thousands of teachers across Arizona will lose their jobs as school districts prepare for a worst case scenario in a shrinking economy.

It is a very tough day in Mesa as the process of alerting those teachers, and other support staff, began Monday morning.

Principals at each of the schools are meeting with those affected on an individual basis and it is a process that will last throughout the week.

Mesa Unified School District has 4,500 teachers and about 5,500 classified support staff but those figures are being reduced as a result of the state's budget crunch.

Kathy Bareiss with Mesa Public Schools, admits, "Today is the beginning of a really hard week for us. We are notifying employees that they won't have a job next year."

A total of 310 people are essentially being let go which is made up of about 210 teachers and about 100 support staff.

Nevertheless, Mesa is not alone. Scottsdale Unified may have to cut hundreds of staff members in addition to Queen Creek and Higley Unified just to name a few. Arizona schools must notify employees by April 15.

Although student Gabby Acosta has not learned of any of her teachers affected she says she has heard, "That some classes may be bunched together, so you may even have 40 in one class."

One parent tells 3TV, "It shouldn't have to trickle down to the kids."

Students will not be affected this year because teachers will continue through the end of the school year and support staff will also work until the end of June.

On a positive note Bareiss explains, "We may be able to bring some of them back depending on the stimulus package and Arizona legislature.

Once everyone is notified by the end of this week there will be several meetings scheduled for staff members to discuss what they can expect and answer any questions they may have.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

MESA - Arizona's unemployment rate is on the rise and it is happening in areas once thought to be recession-proof.

Professor Dennis Hoffman from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says, "For most people out there this is the worst labor market in their lifetimes."

And it is only getting worse, especially Arizona. Hoffman adds, " Expect the Arizona unemployment rate to eclipse the national rate."< /p>

The national unemployment rate is now at 8.5%. The government is reporting another 663,000 jobs were lost in March putting the total number of jobs lost at more than 2 million so far in 2009.

What makes this recession more severe and scary is that sectors like public education and health care, once considered safe, are now seeing huge losses.

Kathy Bareiss, with the Mesa School District, explains, "This is the most stable field one can enterbut these are times that are not biz as usual."

The Mesa School District is letting go of 210 teachers and 100 administrators and staffers as they are forced to cut anywhere from $30 to $60 million dollars from its budget.

Bareiss admits, "It's really one of those situations we never thought we'd face in public education." The manufacturing and construction industries have seen huge losses because there is less demand, but the demand for education and health care has not changed. What has changed is, according to Bareiss, "In deep deep recessions the governments simply don't have the money to sustain the employment in education and insurance that flows into health care."

Ultimately Arizona's unemployment rate is a ripple effect of the foreclosure crisis.

Even as consumer confidence looks to improve and Wall Street makes some strides, historically, unemployment continues to climb for months after a recession is technically over.