GRIEVANCE: Claims stimulus money is being spent the wrong way.
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Newspaper Group (Daily News)
Los Angeles teacher union officials filed 14 complaints against the L.A. Unified School District on Monday, claiming it allowed schools to spend too much federal stimulus money on out-of-classroom jobs, which they said would boost class sizes and jeopardize learning.
School district officials, who have a number of days to respond to the complaints, permitted individual schools to use federal stimulus money to buy back a number of teachers and other workers whose jobs were set to be eliminated because of budget cuts.
smf update 6/9 7:15 am: The Complaint/Grievances – or Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) filings per MEM-4210.0 - will be made later today according to UTLA President A.J. Duffy – and are based on allegations that administrators at school sites, local districts and/or the central office exceeded their authority in overruling School Site Council decisions to rehire staff.
“Complaint: A written and signed statement alleging a violation of federal or state laws or regulations, which may include an allegation of unlawful discrimination.”
In common usage the tern “Grievance” is usually applied to alleged violations of the LAUSD/UTLA Union Contract.
The UCP process is open to everyone, not just UTLA.
At the end of the buyback program, a total of 2,668 teaching, counseling and other jobs were bought back in the district, and 1,056 of them were out-of-classroom jobs, LAUSD officials said Monday.
The union says the number is even more alarming in elementary schools, where 636 in-classroom jobs and 674 non-teaching, out-of-classroom jobs were bought back.
"If we get to July 1 and these decisions are not revoked, parents are going to walk into their schools and they are going to go ballistic when they see what this is has done to class sizes," said UTLA president A.J. Duffy.
Still, Los Angeles Unified officials said individual schools had the freedom to make the decisions, which the district would respect.
"This is what reform looks like," Superintendent Ramon Cortines said. "This action empowered teachers, principals, parents, and students to determine their schools' priorities and what they will look like in 2009-2010.
"It gives all schools a greater voice in how LAUSD money is spent," Cortines said. "And, UTLA members have been at the table during these individual school site council discussions."
The district's teacher buyback plan was an effort to bring more local control to schools by letting school site councils - which include parents, teachers and administrators - at each campus decide what positions to save with their portion of the district's $1billion in federal stimulus money.
The plan helped save nearly 2,700 jobs, bringing the total number of layoffs at the school district to about 4,400 - half of what was approved by the L.A. board of education in April to close a $596 million budget gap.
While district officials say the program was a success, union officials claim some of these decisions were not made by school site councils but by principals and local district administrators.
Mark Gendernalik, a teacher at Shirley Avenue Elementary in Reseda for 11 years, said his school site council agreed to forgo buying teachers to instead purchase teacher's assistants and compromised with administrators by voting in favor of two part-time, out-of-classroom positions.
But Gendernalik said his school's final budget now includes a "data coach", an out-of-classroom position created by the district this year that is dedicated to collecting student data at an individual campus.
He feels the decision is indicative of the struggles faced by school site councils even as the district moves toward more autonomous campuses.
"There has been a refusal to recognize the authority of school site councils," he said. "I've sat through school site councils with three different principals and they have all maintained that school site councils are advisory, that they have no authority over the budget, and that's simply not true."