Tuesday, June 22, 2010


by Howard Blume | LA Times LA Now blog

June 22, 2010 |  8:18 pm -- The Los Angeles Unified School District formally approved a final budget Tuesday that contained modest good news for elementary-school arts programs, but also, as expected, bad tidings for thousands of employees who will lose jobs or suffer pay cuts.

The official $5.4-billion budget will include $5 million more than was previously set aside for the arts programs, which means they will be slashed by a third rather than by half.  

But more than 2,000 non-teaching positions, some of them currently unfilled, will be “closed,” as officials put it.

The union representing clerical workers and some other non-teaching employees turned out hundreds of protesters at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The California School Employees Assn. expects about 1,400 layoffs, while an additional 1,100 workers face wage reductions of as much as 29%. These cuts will take effect over the next few months.

“We’re talking about losing the infrastructure of our schools” -- those who arrange field trips, track inventory, pay vendors, maintain databases, organize lockers and order books and other supplies, Susan Gosman, president of Chapter 500, told members of the Board of Education.

The school board approved the cuts to offset a $640-million deficit for next year. A new $85-million deficit could open up, depending on the outcome of budget deliberations in the state capital, said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. 

Library aides, who essentially serve as librarians at elementary schools, are among the employee groups hard hit.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure our children have access to literature,” said Mount Washington Elementary library aide Clare Marter Kenyon. “As library aides we made a difference in the lives of children.”

The Teamsters Union was on hand to protest the demotion of 314 supervisors from plant managers to custodians, which would reduce their pay from about $23 an hour to about $15 an hour.

The district's action is an attempt to provide more cleaning staff at schools by pushing down the average wages. The district will be hiring 468 “school-facility attendants,” who earn $10 an hour, and rehiring 437 custodians laid off last year, said James Sohn, chief facilities executive.

Employees represented by United Teachers Los Angeles are on a different track. About 680 members will lose their jobs July 1, including more than 200 non-permanent secondary teachers. Also on the list are 250 elementary teachers who had earned seniority protections, but not enough to spare their jobs.

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