If You Lose Your Job

Some General Advice

Being told you won’t have a job next year can be devastating.

You may want to call school board members or an attorney. It is important to remain calm and focused while you process what has happened. If you are a member, call The SCEA immediately.

Things you can try

  • Meet with Human Resources and try to convince them that you are an asset to the district and the children, and they should keep you. Sell yourself.
  • If your position was cut due to funding, you should ask for the information that was used to make the decision and question anything that doesn't look right. Do this in a calm and professional manner. Don't hesitate to share your ideas about how the district can handle things differently so that you keep working.

Jobs in the district

  • Explore other jobs in the district that you believe you can handle with competence, even if it’s only for one year, to give things a chance to improve in the district or find another job.
  • Consider a lower paying position for one year. This keeps your insurance and benefits in place.

Before you leave

  • Download personal files and e-mail that you stored on the school computer onto your personal flash drive and remove it from the school computer.
  • If you are not familiar with the district’s policy related to unused leave, ask how it will be handled.
  • Make sure the district has your correct mailing address. Watch for mail from the district or a notice of certified mail, and pick it up promptly.
  • If you need help with the emotional stress, seek the support and help you need from family, friends or professionals.
  • If you want to file a formal appeal, contact The SCEA right away.

Stay positive

A positive attitude will help you to take the actions needed to move forward. If you’re slipping into the blues, check to see if your school division offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with access to counselors.

Set the record straight

Ask your school district for a letter explaining that you lost your job through a RIF. (Do not resign, as doing so may affect your rights to recall, insurance continuation, unemployment benefits, or other matters.)

Ask for a copy of your personnel file. You’ll want to correct any incorrect information. At home, set up a file containing your employment record, education, certificates, degrees, resume, references and job searches.


Line up unemployment benefits. Benefits are reserved for those who are out of work through no fault of their own and are willing and able to work. Benefits provide a fraction of your paycheck for 12 to 26 weeks. File as soon you complete your last day on the job, since it may take a while to begin benefits. This link to the SC Department of Employment and Workforce will get you started.

Get moving on your job search

Seek written references from credible professionals, especially your principal. If your principal will give you a written reference that is positive, it is unlikely he or she will say anything contrary to that when contacted for a reference by a prospective hiring principal.

In addition to your local school district HR office, consider applying in other systems. A good site for teachers is Teachers-Teachers.com. Need to polish your resume? Check out Monster.com or Career Builder for advice.

Health insurance

Find out how long your school district insurance will cover you. If your spouse has a solid health insurance plan, check into adding yourself. Another option is to use “COBRA” to continue your school system insurance for up to 18 months. This is an expensive option, but it does guarantee uninterrupted coverage. Do not go uninsured, as it may cause big problems when you try to become insured later on. This link provides information about health coverage options from HealthCare.gov.

Weigh your retirement options

If you separate from the school district, you will receive a letter from the SC Retirement System (PEBA) outlining your options. Think twice before withdrawing your retirement savings, especially if you plan to continue teaching or working for an employer in SC who participates in the retirement system. Taking your retirement money should be a last resort.

Address any licensing issues

Are you a provisional employee? Make sure to confirm your plan with the school district and your university to take the steps necessary to fulfill the plan and gain your license. Are you considering an additional endorsement area or degree? Now may be a good time to get it, especially if you boost your credentials in a shortage area.

Check the state department to make sure their records are current related to your certificate renewal credits, evaluations, and so forth. If anything is wrong, it will easier to correct it before you leave.

Watch your money

Create a budget. Separate the essential bills from the frills. In need of credit counseling? Check out this page, prepared by NEA Member Benefits and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, for advice on debt and credit management. Check into loan flexibility. If you are going to have trouble making student loan payments, check with your loan providers about loan deferment or forbearance. They may offer some flexibility. The same goes for other loans—don’t fall behind without at least finding out if you can get an extension or possibly pay a smaller amount until you’re back on your feet.

Know Your Recall Rights

SC Code of Laws Section 59-25-415

Certified personnel who have taught in a school district for at least one year and who are dismissed for economic reasons have priority for being rehired to fill any vacancy for which they are qualified which occurs within two years from the date of their dismissal. A school district has complied with the requirements of this section by mailing a notice of intent to rehire to the teacher's last known address."

Check your local school board policies for the district's policy.

It's the Law! You Must Be Promptly Paid all Money Due to You

SC Code of Laws Section 41-10-50

When an employer separates an employee from the payroll for any reason, the employer shall pay all wages due to the employee within forty-eight hours of the time of separation or the next regular payday which may not exceed thirty days. 

Maintain your Association membership

NEA Member Benefits offers an online resource to assist members facing a layoff, but you must keep your membership current to use the service. The Member Assistance Program (MAP) provides guidance, information, and tools for dealing with the financial repercussions of job loss and preparing to find a new position.  In addition to a Job Layoff Checklist and links to useful sites on the Web, the “Resources and Services” section of MAP provides information on special accommodations that may be available to participants in NEA Member Benefits programs. Being proactive is the best way to improve your outlook and your circumstances. Start by visiting MAP online today!