MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Many teachers are decorating bulletin boards and arranging desks in preparation for the coming school year. But others, like Jessica Skowronek, are at home waiting.
"It's very frustrating," she said. "I feel like I have to stay around the house because maybe I'm going to get that call."
A teacher for three years in Minneapolis, Skowronek had been close to earning tenure before she was laid off -- along with 1,000 others.
Deep budget cuts last spring led to the pink-slipping of more than 1,000 teachers across the metro area, according to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. Perhaps hundreds remain unemployed and in limbo, with only a week before the first day of school, though some have been rehired to replace retirees and others have taken jobs in other districts or as substitute teachers.
In Minneapolis, of the 419 teachers laid off, 129 still haven't been rehired. The Osseo Area School District let go about 75 teachers, eventually calling back half of them. North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school leaders have gone from scrambling for teachers a few years ago to cutting them this year, said Superintendent Dan Kaler. In all, his district eliminated 34 teaching positions.
It's not uncommon for newer teachers to get laid off in the spring and then rehired by summer's end. Jobs open up as people retire or move away. But this year, school officials say there were far more layoffs than usual and fewer retirements, causing a teacher surplus in some areas.
By and large, the educators still awaiting callbacks are elementary teachers with three or fewer years of experience. Others teach music, art and other subjects that school districts cut to save money. Those who have teaching licenses in hard-to-find areas like special education, math, and languages are in the greatest demand.
Another laid-off teacher, Tom Sweeney, spent many sleepless nights this summer worrying about his future. He finally got a call Aug. 8 from a Minneapolis principal interested in hiring him. By that time, however, he'd already accepted a job at a private school in Hopkins.
He said his first choice was to stay in Minneapolis, where he felt the children needed him most. But with a baby on the way and insurance running out, Sweeney and his wife couldn't afford to wait.
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