If you’ve received, or expect to receive, a layoff notice, use our checklist of 16 action items for NEA members to take to help you prepare for finding a job—and surviving financially while you’re unemployed.
1. Contact your Local President, Association representative, or UniServ or field staff representative immediately
Report the layoff or impending layoff, and find out what assistance may be available to you.
2. Consult your state and local association websites and neamb.com
Find out what resources and benefits are available to RIF’d employees. Our Job Layoffs resource page provides helpful information. And if you participate in any of our member benefits programs, check this page to see what financial assistance may be available to you.
3. Contact your school district’s human resources department
Get a complete copy of your personnel file to be sure it contains accurate records regarding your employment, evaluations, etc. Also get information on continuation of life and health insurance, pension and retirement accounts, and current and potential job vacancies for which you may qualify.
4. Apply for unemployment compensation
Apply the first business day after your last duty day. Check the U.S. Department of Labor website (dol.gov) or your state unemployment website for details on eligibility requirements, how to apply, how much money you will receive, how/when payments will be made and the expected duration of unemployment benefits.
5. Determine the date your current health insurance coverage will terminate
Check your locally negotiated contract and/or your school board policy manual for specifics. Receipt of health insurance benefits during the summer months should not affect your eligibility for unemployment compensation.
Contact your school district (in some instances your UniServ or field staff representative) for information on continuation of health insurance under COBRA and other health insurance options.
Check to see if you are eligible for coverage under a working spouse’s or domestic partner’s health plan.
If possible, get your annual physical done, and consider getting new eyeglasses or contact lenses before your health coverage ends.
6. Continue your life and disability insuranceSee if you can convert your school district group term life insurance and disability insurance plans to individual plans. (You can’t obtain disability insurance without a job.)
Note: If you have life insurance through the NEA Members Insurance Trust, you may be eligible to have your premiums waived if you send in documented proof of your layoff. Check our assistance page for details. Keep in mind that you must maintain membership in the Association to keep your benefits (see Step #13 for more information).
7. Review pension and retirement plan account balances and benefits
Each state’s pension system is unique. Find out whether you’re vested in the plan by your termination date.
Consult with your school district, your UniServ or field staff representative, and personal financial planner for information and guidance to determine the best course of action regarding disposition and use of your pension and retirement plan assets.
8. Investigate other job opportunities within your school district or state
Find out if you are qualified to teach other courses or apply for licenses in other areas.
State your desire to your school and school district to be considered for any vacancies for which you are qualified, and request that vacancy lists be sent to you when they’re published. Look at other areas in your state that may have teacher shortages or a need for teachers in specific subject areas.
Apply for any additional licenses for which you are qualified and make sure licenses you currently hold are properly registered with the school districts, community colleges, and/or universities.
9. Prepare for your job search
Ask for a letter of recommendation from your principal, supervisor and/or colleagues. Prepare a list of job references and their contact information.
Let your network of professional associates, friends and family know you have been laid off and are looking for a job.
Develop or update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Look for free online resume builders such as resume.com. Contact your UniServ or field staff representative, local community agencies, and community college continuing education programs for workshops and resources on resume writing and job interview skills. Most employment websites also have lots of guidance available for free.
Add endorsements to your teaching license, if appropriate.
Do an inventory of your job skills, and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
10. Identify new job opportunities
Review your state department of education and school district job websites daily for position vacancy announcements.
Check online education job websites such as k12jobspot.com and schoolspring.com. Also check general job websites such as linkedin.com, indeed.com, careerbuilder.com and monster.com for opportunities in education and related fields.
Attend networking events, conferences, career fairs, and professional association meetings—in person and/or virtually—to expand your network of contacts.
11. Look for interim work to help your cash flow
If you don’t qualify for unemployment benefits, use the job sites noted above to find part-time or temporary employment while you continue your permanent job search.
12. Make wise financial decisions
Create a budget and emergency spending plan, and prioritize expenditures and reduce expenses.
If you need help managing your debt, find resources from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org).
Make retirement plan decisions such as whether to cash out or roll over funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a new employer’s account. Avoid borrowing from your retirement plans, if at all possible.
13. Maintain your Association membership
Current policies and info for members who’ve been laid off due to a reduction in force (RIF) can be found in the current NEA Handbook.
Benefits of membership, including legal services programs such as the Educator Employment Liability Insurance and Unified Legal Services Program, are available as long as NEA Active membership is maintained. Active membership also entitles members to discounts, products and services through NEA Member Benefits as well as special accommodations for RIF’d NEA members who participate in NEA Member Benefits programs.
Also, check with your State Association to see if a Reserve Membership option is available, which entitles you to maintain your NEA benefits and continue participation in NEA Member Benefits programs.
Contact your UniServ/field staff representative or local President for more information.
14. Keep your license current
Renewing your teaching license or other professional license is your responsibility, even when you are unemployed. Requirements for renewal are usually printed at the bottom of your current certificate/license.
Access your state department of education Teacher Education and Licensure website for information, or contact your UniServ or field staff representative for assistance.
15. Maintain contact with others through online communities
Networking helps you keep up your morale, make professional contacts, and obtain useful survival tips. You can participate in online forums and communities such as NEA edCommunities.
16. If you are rehired by your school district…Know your rights upon rehire. Before accepting a position, talk to your UniServ/field staff representative or local President about:
- Experience credit
- Sick leave accrual transfer and other benefits issues
- Your contract status
- Any pitfalls you may encounter