By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group / Daily News, Daily Breeze, etc.
Posted: 12/07/2009 08:01:37 PM PST
8 December 2009 - The Los Angeles Unified school board is expected to vote on a two-year budget plan today that calls for the elimination of more than 5,000 district positions unless employee unions agree to furloughs and pay cuts.
The cost-savings measures, including a districtwide 11.75 percent pay cut, are designed to cover a shortfall of some $1.2 billion through 2012, according to a report Superintendent Ray Cortines will present to the board Tuesday.
The layoffs include nearly 1,400 teachers, whose loss would balloon class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to a student-teacher ratio of 29-to-1 from 24-to-1.
A majority of the layoffs though, would come from non-classroom positions, including nearly 1,000 janitors and maintenance workers, 520 school office workers and 200 school administrators. Schools will also see across-the-board, 20 percent cuts in school nurses, campus aides, counselors, librarians and administrators.
The district also proposes cutting its central office by more than 15 percent, including the reduction of local district offices from eight regional sites to four.
While most board members said some reductions were inevitable, they also said they hoped district employee unions will come forward with concessions to prevent cutting too deeply into classrooms.
"There is no question in anyone's mind that if we don't all come together and find shared solutions the impact is going to be catastrophic," said LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer.
"It is no exaggeration to say that it will be the end of public education in the city of Los Angeles as we know it and that is admitting that the service we already provide is not enough."
So far one union, SEIU Local 99 representing bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, has agreed to four furlough days this year. SEIU bus drivers have approved 10 furlough days to prevent cuts to their unit specifically.
Also, the California School Employees Association reached a tentative agreement with the district for the unpaid work days that still have to be approved by its members. No unions have come forward with any plans to take pay cuts next year.
According to the district's budget estimates, if all employees took an 11.75 percent pay cut, no layoffs would be needed. But leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, said they could not see agreeing to more reductions to teacher salaries.
"These people are sacrificing every day. We have not taken raises for three years, we spend a lot of money out of pocket and we put in extra time for our kids," said Julie Washington, elementary vice president for UTLA.
"I'm afraid with a 12 percent pay cut we'll see homeless teachers. If we have teachers taking furloughs, we will not be able to provide a quality service to our children."
UTLA is planning a protest in front of LAUSD's downtown headquarters today. Washington said the rally is not only intended to denounce LAUSD's proposed reduction, but also to ask state and federal legislators to provide better funding for schools.
A kindergarten teacher, Washington said she felt the increase in class sizes for young students to be particularly unfair.
"Over the last two years we have increased the class sizes for our youngest customers by almost 10 students in a class. In our toughest schools, small class sizes is the name of game because if we can get these kids when they're young those students have the best chance of being successful."
Part of the new budget proposal also calls for reductions in several programs, including a cut of 20 percent to gifted education programs, a 50 percent cut to elementary music and art programs, and the elimination of all funding to open new magnet schools. A proposal to shut down low-enrollment schools also is on the table.
Board member Tamar Galatzan said she has received several calls from parents, teachers and community members asking her to spare a particular program, but at this point she said the district has run out of options.
"All cuts are painful but when community members, teachers and other staff are lobbying to keep a program they need to help us find the equivalent amount of cuts somewhere else.
●●smf's 2¢: ● The Budget better be for three years …that's what the law requires. Years two and three tend to be works of speculative fiction …but we tell the kids taking the SAT that writing skills are important in the 21st century workplace,
● Many of the proposed cuts are bargaining ploys by the superintendent in the beginning of contract negotiations: "Don't make me fire these people!" He threatened to fire 2000 teachers last year, ultimately a couple of hundred were let go. This sort of brinkmanship is untoward and unbecoming …but it's how it's always been done. And the way we've always done it has produced the lovely results at hand.
● The Legislative Analyst's Office has predicted a $1 billion increase to the Prop 98 Guarantee next year. California's Fiscal Outlook: The 2010-11 Budget [pp.27-29] This amounts to about $200 million to LAUSD. The lege and the gov could override the guarantee – but that would take a dreaded 2/3's vote on a move so unpopular as to probably send many democrats into the ranks of the unemployed.