A plan to lay off thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers was tabled one day before the Board of Education was scheduled to vote, district officials announced on Monday, April 13th.
The school board passed a motion on April 14th to back the decision by LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines to cancel the termination notices that were mailed to teachers in March.
But the board members, in a 4-3 vote, approved a measure that could eliminate more than 5,000 district employee positions.
ìAnger is appropriate and outrage is appropriate,î school board president Monica GarcÌa said after the vote. ìNobody wants to do these layoffs.î
Teachers had been bracing for the possibility of losing their jobs for months, and LAUSDís decision to issue layoff notices to nearly 9,000 employees in March heightened their anxiety.
The decision to spare nearly 2,000 permanent teachers from losing their jobs comes a month after Cortines had proposed slashing positions from district administrative rolls, local districts, educators and other LAUSD employeesí positions.
Cortines has also proposed decentralizing certain decisions at local schools that would permit principals to appropriate Title I funding, which could be used to buy back positions that were cut.
ìIím insisting that schools not performing will have to buy back elementary school teachers,î said the superintendent.
Pete Accardi, who teaches at Westchester High School, called the boardís vote to retain permanent educators ìa small stepî in the right direction.
ìIt was understood that teachers at the high school level were not going to be laid off without a hearing, so that really isnít new information,î noted Accardi, who is the United Teachers Los Angeles representative at the high school. ìWe want to save all teacher positions, including those at the elementary school level.î
Educators who are the most vulnerable are teachers at the elementary school level and those who have not achieved tenure. Administrators, librarians and nurses are also in that category.
A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, has stated publicly that the district should look first at its own staff and eliminate contractors that do business with LAUSD before cutting teacher positions.
Duffy could not be reached for comment as of Argonaut press time.
One Westchester principal thinks that Cortinesí idea regarding decentralization will give school administrators more choice in how they can manage the needs of their students.
ìI think that the superintendentís plan provides an increased opportunity to direct targeted funding at our schoolís needs,î Melinda Goodall, principal at Loyola Village Elementary School in Westchester, told The Argonaut.
Schools in Westchester have been advocating for increased decision-making as part of their breakaway from the district. Last year, five of the seven schools joined the iDesign Division of LAUSD in an attempt to gain local control over their studentsí academic lives. Most of the iDesign schools have initiated governing structures and have hired principals, assistant principals and other administrators.
The iDesign Division was created by former LAUSD Supt. David L. Brewer to accelerate student achievement through a ìfamily of schools.î
Loyola Marymount University is a network partner with iDesign schools, assisting them with professional development for teachers, fundraising and training in budgets and hiring practices, among other things.
Loyola Village is one of the two schools that does not belong to the iDesign Division.
ìI will work with our teachers, academic advisers and our school site council to see that these resources are allocated to the areas that are most in need,î said Goodall, who oversees a Title I state-wide school.
The Loyola Village principal said that two of her teachers could become victims of the budget crunch.
The LAUSD board vote to keep the same staffing levels for permanent teachers was announced a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with teachers and parents to propose possible solutions to avoid cutting positions in the school district.
ìLaying off more than 3,000 teachers is not an acceptable option,î Villaraigosa said. ìThese extraordinary circumstances demand an approach of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.
ìIím asking everyone to come together, pitch in and be a small part of a bigger solution.î
At the meeting, Villaraigosa offered a partnership between LAUSD, city, and union leadership to unite and work to save the jobs of LAUSD teachers.
ìIt will not be easy, but by sharing the responsibility and
sacrifice, we can save many of our teachers and school-based staff,î the mayor said.
Board president GarcÌa, who voted for the personnel cuts, also attended the meeting.
Villaraigosa recommended several options on how the district could save teachersí jobs, many of them similar to what Cortines proposed last month before the school board, including reductions to the staff at LAUSD headquarters.
Villaraigosa used similar language at a press conference on April 6th, when he asked city employees, unions and residents to take on ìshared responsibility and sacrificeî as he and other City Hall officials confront a $530 million budget shortfall.
Under Cortinesí proposal last month, 1,940 elementary school teachers would have been laid off, along with 1,541 secondary school teachers, 90 special education teachers and 115 elementary and secondary administrators. One hundred and seventy-seven school counselors and 217 instructional specialists would also have been eliminated.
In addition, 212 positions at the local school districts would have been cut and 1,028 positions from the school districtís administrative offices would have been eliminated.
School board member Marlene Canter, who represents schools in Westchester, Del Rey, Venice and Mar Vista, voted for the employee cuts.