four ceramic moneyboxes on the blue background

While Kyrene School District has yet to discuss how a project $6 million budget shortfall will impact staffing, some of its neighbors are rejoicing while at least one other is taking an axe to their teaching ranks.

Ironically, at the same time March 30 that Kyrene Chief Financial Officer Chris Hermann was outlining the district’s revenue plight, Mesa Public Schools administration stated it anticipates no staff layoffs while Gilbert Public Schools officials were discussing why they’ve given a pink slip to 152 teachers, many with years of experience.

  Over the last few weeks, officials in Chandler Unified, MPS and Higley Unified in Gilbert have all declared no teacher will lose their job in the coming school year.

That news for MPS employees marks a stark turnaround from dire predictions made last fall, when top administrators had warned their governing board it would be discussing layoffs in the spring amid an enrollment decline of more than 3,500 students.

Mesa is the state’s largest district, with more than 50,000 students.

Mesa administrators also disclosed on  March 30 that the district expects over $160 million in the two rounds of pandemic relief funding coming from Congress’ December 2020 and March 2021 relief bills.

“It’s exciting but also terrifying to know we have so much to spend,” MPS Assistant Superintendent Scott Thompson told his governing board.

Tempe Union projects a budget shortfall of close to $3 million.

Meanwhile, as MPS heard the good news about its federal pandemic money, Gilbert Public Schools officials were detailing how they arrived at telling 152 teachers they won’t have jobs after the current school year ends.

GPS officials said they had to cut 7.5 percent of their teaching staff because they weren’t needed in the wake of a projected enrollment lost of more than 1,600 students. 

Gilbert is the sixth largest district in Arizona with about 35,000 students and is expecting around $12 million from the second round of federal pandemic relief. Its allotment from the American Recovery Act approved last month by Congress has not yet been disclosed.

The layoffs in GPS prompted a bitter reaction from teachers, particularly over a ratings system that had been developed without public knowledge over the first two months of this year.

That rating system included things ranging from a teacher’s flexibility in school to how they got interacted with the community. High school teachers were partly rated on whether students were clamoring to get into their classes or dropping the courses they taught.

GPS teachers were particularly bitter over the fact that there had not been any public warnings at school board meetings about the possibility of layoffs.

Much of Gilbert’s enrollment loss appears to have stemmed from parental anger over the district’s frequent fluctuations in learning, from partial in-classroom instruction to full online instruction to full five-week in-class scheduling.

Ironically, Higley Unified, which also serves Gilbert, pretty much kept in-class instruction five days a week since the school year began. Its enrollment decline was less than 200 students.

Chandler Unified, the state’s fourth largest district, announced last week it anticipated no layoffs – another marked turnaround, like Mesa.

Chandler Unified projected a loss of 1,750 students – the district’s first enrollment decline in decades – and last fall anticipated 180 layoffs.

But CUSD Superintendent Camille Casteel said last week her staff had figured alternative ways of closing an $11 million budget gap and that layoffs would be unnecessary.

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