Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SAYS IT IS SAVING NEARLY 2,500 JOBS: District officials attribute the development to employee furloughs, federal funds and cost-cutting measures. But 682 teachers and support personnel face job losses.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

June 17, 2010 -- Employee furloughs, federal funds and cost-cutting measures are saving nearly 2,500 jobs in the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said this week.

Despite that qualified good news, 682 teachers and professional "support personnel" still face losing their positions June 30, a much smaller number than the 3,090 who received notices March 15 that they could be laid off.

Many layoffs were prevented because schools used new authority over their budgets to rehire some staff members. The other job saver has been 12 unpaid furlough days agreed to by employee unions.

The deal with the administrators and teachers unions saved $140 million but also shortened the school year by five days this year and next. School ends Friday at most L.A. Unified campuses.

The news on layoffs would be better still if voters had passed a district-sponsored parcel tax that failed at the polls this month, officials said. A proposed budget for this added revenue would have restored positions for elementary school arts teachers and some high school instructors.

There's no particular good news for district clerical staff. This time last year, employees represented by the California School Employees Assn. numbered 7,103. For the current school year the total dropped to 5,600, mostly through layoffs. And for next year the projected figure is about 4,600, said union labor-relations representative Connie Moreno.

And more than 1,000 of the survivors are looking at salary cuts of about 15% because of reduced work schedules, Moreno said.

The school system is also proposing sharp reductions in plant managers, who belong to a different union. They oversee the upkeep of schools.

In addition, several hundred administrators are likely to be demoted to classroom positions. Many librarians will also return to the classroom.

On a related front, it isn't clear how the district will carry out a court ruling that protects three schools from further job cuts; these campuses were especially hard hit by layoffs last year.

Under state law, the district can lay off teachers only on the basis of seniority. The staffs at Markham, Gompers and Liechty middle schools remained at risk because so many of their less experienced teachers lack seniority protections.

On Tuesday, a school board majority passed a resolution calling on state lawmakers to provide flexibility with seniority rules. Board members argued that teaching ability — not seniority — should govern layoff decisions.

The teachers union immediately objected, saying that, at present, no better system than seniority exists in situations where layoffs are required.

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