Saturday, August 18, 2007

LONG-TERM SUBSTITUTES TO CUT COSTS FOR LAUSD: But the teacher's union opposes the proposal, which would shuffle instructors after winter break.

By Paul Clinton, Daily Breeze Staff Writer

August 14, 2007 - Despite objections from its powerful teachers union, Los Angeles Unified plans to ask high schools to submit a midyear enrollment count that could result in the loss of three to six teachers from each campus.

Teachers wouldn't be laid off. Instead, they would be shifted into long-term substitute positions. As a result, the district would reduce its reliance on substitutes.

The district is rolling out the practice - known as "renorming" - this fall as a cost-cutting move, claiming it will shave $14 million from the expense side of the budget ledger. However, United Teachers Los

Angeles President A.J. Duffy claims it would save only $8million.

New board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the San Pedro-to-Watts area, said the practice would harm student achievement by disrupting the learning environment.

"It's a budget trade-off, but I think it's disruptive," Vladovic said. "I'm not convinced it's the best for kids. I'm not convinced the savings justify the educational loss."

Under the plan, if the ratio of students to teachers falls below district formulas, teachers would be moved to other high schools and used as long-term substitutes, or "pool teachers."

The district determines the number of teachers at a school using ratios based on the number of students enrolled.

Enrollment at LAUSD high schools often falls between the start of school in early September and New Year's Day because students drop out or move out of the area.

Last fall at Gardena High School, for example, more than 3,500 students arrived for the start of school. By October, however, the school reported that number was down to 3,278.

The move is expected to undermine the district's bid to lower class sizes, a concession secured by United Teachers Los Angeles in contract negotiations in the spring.

"If there are fewer students, the class sizes would go down," said Russ Thompson, principal at Gardena High School. "But if the teachers are reduced, then class sizes would stay at their normal level."

At Gardena High, about 33 students are allocated for each teacher, Thompson said. Ninth-grade English and algebra average less than 25-to-1, while social studies and science are counted at 32-to-1. Spanish, French and other foreign languages are counted at 40-to-1, he added.

With extra room available, Gardena High will accept more than 250 students from Banning High in Wilmington and Narbonne High in Harbor City.

On the first Friday of the semester, usually in early October, schools submit their enrollment data to the district.

Duffy said the second enrollment count in January would violate the terms of the teachers' 2006-07 contract, which includes a promise of $20 million to reduce classes by two students in grades 4-12.

Duffy has been lobbying several board members to halt the plan.

"We're going to press this issue until the board realizes that it's not a good idea," Duffy said. "It was done in typical LAUSD fashion. It came out of a bean counter who looked at a spread sheet."

Julie Slayton, the district administrator in charge of the project, could not be reached for comment.

Schools are permitted to bank teaching positions in anticipation of the midyear enrollment drop, Vladovic said.

By following trends, school administrators can anticipate the drop by not filling several teaching positions in September.

The banking is permitted and can avert classroom disruptions, he added.

If schools don't "bank" positions, students in classrooms that lose teachers would be shifted to other rooms.

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