Friday, January 16, 2009

CORTINES PROPOSAL APPROVED: It includes cutting 2,290 teacher positions in LAUSD; the union announces protests

Yurina Rico | La Opinión

January 14, 2009 -- The Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has approved a proposal by Superintendent Ramón Cortines that cuts 2,290 positions of teachers who have been teaching for two years or less, within 14 days of their being notified.

The proposal, which Cortines maintained is “tentative,” would eliminate 1,690 elementary school teachers, 300 math teachers and 300 English teachers in middle and high schools. These cuts would save LAUSD 50 million dollars.

“This is strictly a precautionary measure. I’m trying to put pressure on Sacramento. I’m still trying to find options,” maintained Cortines.

However, the budget submitted by the chief financial officer of the District, Megan Reilly, to the Board of Education, includes these cuts.

“I’m asking the Board to authorize it, but it isn’t my final proposal,” declared Cortines.

The motion was approved with five votes in favor and two against.

Julie Korenstein and Richard Vladovic voted against the superintendent’s proposal without making any comments on it. The other members also were silent on this measure, which is considered so unpopular.

The effects of this cut, which was approved, would leave more than 40,000 children without teachers and cause them to be assigned to other classes. A total of 921 counselors would be reassigned to the classroom, and 2,000 substitute teachers would be removed from the official listing of teachers.

Furthermore, 1,140 teachers who serve as coaches would be reassigned to the classroom. Of these teachers, 807 would go to elementary schools, 154 would teach math and 179 would teach English in middle and high schools.

The president of the Board of Education, Mónica García, declared that each year they need to hire 2,500 new teachers, but the financial situation is forcing them to lay off teachers, although they are needed.

The beginning salary for a teacher during the first year in the District is $45,637.

Cortines asked the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), as well as parent and teacher organizations on the state level, to join the effort to pressure legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to find a solution to the budget that does not include more cuts to education.

UTLA president A.J. Duffy’s reply was not only that he did not support the proposal; he announced that the union would fight against the layoffs by mobilizing teachers, parents and students.

“This is one of the saddest days for the District. You [Cortines and the School Board] have every intention of laying off 1,600 of our children’s teachers,” said Duffy. And he added: “When you let 1,600 teachers go, they won’t return to the District. They’ll leave the city or the state, or even worse, they will give up being educators.”

Duffy added that this cut will also affect university students who are considering entering the profession; or if they graduate, they won’t want to work for LAUSD.

The teachers’ union representative said that before cutting teachers, they should close down LAUSD’s “toy,” referring to the television channel. With this measure they would save 15 million dollars.

Since the deficit in LAUSD amounts to 80 million dollars, Duffy considered that the eight local districts should be closed down; with this measure they would save 60 million dollars.

“Before cutting a teacher they should cut the bureaucracy. Until there are no longer any bureaucracy or toys, then they should affect teachers and classrooms,” declared Duffy.

Judy Washington, a parent who attended the Board meeting, wondered how she would tell her young daughter that she will be without a teacher.

The Teachers’ Union announced a protest for Thursday, January 29, which will depart at 3:30 p.m. from the central headquarters of the school district (333 S. Beaudry Ave., in Los Angeles) toward Pershing Square, located downtown. At around 4:30 p.m. some teachers and union leaders are expected to make public statements.

At 5:30 p.m. the protest will move to the building of the state administrative offices (300 S. Spring St., also in Los Angeles), where they will remain until 6:00 p.m.

“This will be the beginning of the actions we will take. We will announce other actions as the dates come closer,” declared Duffy.

Translated by LAUSD Translations Unit

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