After a summer of uncertainty, 63 to 70 Non-Tenure Track employees at Southern Regions Early Childhood Program have received notification their jobs are safe for another school year.
Lisa Browning, program coordinator for Southern Regions, said some workers feared they might not return to work this fall after the NTT became aware of possible layoffs July 6.
The Southern Regions Early Childhood Program has 24 classrooms in 19 different school districts in four counties. It offers preschool classes for children aged 3 to 5 and has birth-to-3-years programs, family centers and family educators throughout the district.
The layoff notices were given because wording in the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association’s contract states full-time union members must be informed of a possible layoff 45 days before the academic term, and all other NTT members must be told 30 days in advance.
The NTT faculty association is a group dedicated to the betterment of working conditions for university professors and learning conditions for students through the use of collective bargaining.
Browning said despite uncertainty of whether Southern Regions could keep its staff, the employees stayed in contact with the program and were kept updated on the situation throughout the summer.
“The funding we were expecting to get, but we weren’t sure the amount of funding we’d receive,” she said. “Employees were calling us up pretty regularly and seeing if we got the funds.”
While the funds from the state are 8 percent less than what the initial grant offered, there will be no salary cuts or employees laid off, Browning said.
Despite the state’s cut to funding, she said this year won’t be unlike any other.
“We’re going to do this to the best of our abilities like we always have in the past,” Browning said. “We’ve been here for 25 years and are going strong, and I think the State Board of Education has always been very supportive of us.”
Chancellor Rita Cheng said the school can rest easy now because the program will be able to maintain the same work it has been providing since the beginning of its time at the school 25 years ago.
“Its been a great partnership,” she said. “With the school districts and the commitment that SIU provides to supporting early childhood education, this is very much a part of our history, reaching out and making a difference in southern Illinois.”
While Southern Regions will be able to keep its employees, Cheng said about 20 other NTT members’ futures at the university are still undetermined.
She said enrollment numbers as well as the demand for courses will influence the need for some NTT members at SIU.
Along with the possible layoffs, she said other NTT employees have already seen a cut in their workload.
NTTFA President Anita Barrett said 14 employees have already been laid off, and the fact that any layoffs have happened at all is a surprise to her.
The remaining professors will most likely have to work uncompensated overtime hours, Barrett said, which in turn would take jobs away from other people.
Barrett said she believes some staff members have been laid off wrongly, and a series of impact bargaining — a way to contract laid off faculty — may be implemented to bring back some of those professors.
Recalls for the laid off professors will be sent out by the end of the week to inform the teachers whether they will return for the fall semester, she said.
Cheng said there may be more layoffs once SIU receives its official enrollment numbers and a course analysis gets conducted to decide which should be kept.
State funding has always played a role in how the school operates, she said, and lately that has made it difficult to operate smoothly.
“The uncertainty of the state funding and the economy is really making it very challenging to address our staffing needs, so we’re definitely operating with less people throughout,” she said. “But the commitment of the campus to maintaining a high quality experience for a student is what I’m seeing when I’m going out to visit with all of the departments.”
Rod Sievers, university spokesman, said it will be tough to maintain a school when there is a lack in state funding, but the university does its best to only make cutbacks when absolutely necessary.