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More than 2,000 Massachusetts educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices

The vast majority are teachers, says the Massachusetts Teachers Association

A sign from a protest about educator layoffs in Brookline earlier this month.
A sign from a protest about educator layoffs in Brookline earlier this month.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

More than 2,000 educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices for the fall, the state’s largest teachers union said Tuesday. The “vast majority” are teachers, though the list also includes teaching aides, coaches, and behavioral therapists, the Massachusetts Teachers Association said, a blow to an education system reeling from a global pandemic.

The figure is based on reports from the organization’s membership in 47 of the state’s more than 400 school districts. It includes only those school systems where local associations have reported 10 or more educators have received layoff or nonrenewal notices that have not been rescinded. (It was unclear late Tuesday afternoon how many other districts issued pink slips.)

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The association’s leaders said some nonrenewal notices are issued every year for a variety of reasons, such as declining enrollment or the elimination of programs. And many positions are restored in the fall, when state funding to the school districts is finalized. But with the state budget process delayed because of the pandemic this year, the MTA leaders said they have seen a spike in pink slips because the federal and state governments have failed to approve adequate funding for local school districts in time for them to budget for the fall.

“The state must live up to its constitutional obligation to provide the funding needed for schools to operate effectively and safely during the COVID-19 pandemic,‘' Merrie Najimy, president of the teachers association, said in a press release.

Before the pandemic hit, Massachusetts schools had expected a significant new investment in state education spending; the pink slip figures show how difficult it will be for them to just maintain the status quo.

But even as Beacon Hill lawmakers grapple with billions of dollars in lost revenue, city officials across Massachusetts are calling on top leaders to preserve a long-fought-for increase in school funding. Postponing that commitment, the local officials argue, could have a catastrophic impact on the state’s most vulnerable students.

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State lawmakers have said it is highly unlikely that a full budget will be determined before the fiscal year ends June 30. Governor Charlie Baker recently filed a temporary $5.2 billion budget for July that keeps funding at same level as the last fiscal year, according to state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, cochair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

He said lawmakers are waiting to see how the economy reemerges from the shutdown, and whether the federal government provides additional help, before giving guidance to local communities.

The highest number of layoffs and nonrenewals is in Leominster, which issued nearly 200 such notices, according to the teachers association.

Other districts with more than 100 such notices include Taunton, Pittsfield, and Newton. Brookline, which sent out more than 300 pink slips last month, handed out only 45 in the final tally, and Randolph, where protests over layoffs erupted earlier this month, issued 43, according to the teachers association.

The association did not have an immediate breakdown of the 2,030 notices, but said most are teachers and other licensed staff. The association does not compile layoffs or nonrenewal notices every year, officials said, adding that the numbers often fluctuate between spring and summer. They stressed that the notices are much higher this year because of funding uncertainties.

In Newton, the pink slips went to more than 100 teaching aides and behavioral therapists, to warn that their contracts may not be renewed, said Mike Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association. But he said those positions will need to be restored by fall for students whose Individualized Education Plans require such aides by law.

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Teachers’ positions are not affected, he added.

School districts can restore some or all of the positions, once they know much money they will receive from the state. But that is unlikely to happen before September.

Newton Superintendent David Fleishman said large portions of the nonrenewals are not related to the pandemic, adding that the district still plans to devote nearly the same amount of money to teaching positions as it had previously. Newton, which does not heavily rely on state aid, is using a budge surplus from this year to fill the revenue gaps, said Fleishman. He said some nonrenewed employees might get their jobs back depending on how many students can ultimately be taught at school in person this fall.

In neighboring Brookline, teachers union president Jessica Wender-Shubow vowed to keep pressing the district for complete information on employees whose positions might be affected by the notices.

“We have a … list [from the district] and it’s filled with errors,‘' said Wender-Shubow.

Melissa Campbell, president of United Educators of Pittsfield and an eighth-grade math teacher, said the notices affect 140 teachers in Pittsfield, which she said receives a bulk of its education budget from the state.

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“It’s across the board,‘' Campbell said of the notices. “In my building, science was hit, English was hit, math was hit.”

She said more than 90 percent of the positions are first-year teachers. The list also includes a pair of guidance counselors and 10 school-based administrators. The positions are likely to be restored once state funding is allocated, she said.

Jim Quaintance, president of the Taunton Education Association, said the 160 notices in his district represent a “tremendous blow” affecting one-sixth of the union’s 640 members.

Many are teachers with fewer than three years’ experience in a variety of subjects, as well as 18 full-time coaches and one part-time coach.

“When you lose that many teachers, that’s only going to make the quality of education go down and the size of the classes have to go up,‘' Quaintance said.

Quaintance said the union was notified that the district faced a $3.9 million deficit and must cut its budget. He said it is not clear whether any staff cuts would be restored by fall.

Worcester Superintendent Maureen Binienda said in an e-mail that the nonrenewal of more than 100 staffers was unrelated to any financial strain caused by the pandemic, adding that it is part of the normal trimming of staff with fewer than three years in the district.

Superintendents in Brookline, Taunton, and Pittsfield could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

James Vaznis of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.