By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
6/16/2010 -- Los Angeles Unified officials approved Tuesday a plan that seeks to block the practice of basing layoffs only on seniority while making it easier to fire bad teachers.
The district is expected to negotiate the proposal with union leaders, who oppose the resolution.
The measure also urges the district to support proposed state legislation to eliminate "last hired-first fired" rules for layoffs.
"We need to be able to make decisions, in times of layoffs, based on who is the most efficient teacher first," said board member Yolie Flores.
"This is the first step in ensuring that every student in this district gets a quality teacher."
Teachers union officials said the plan was an unfair attack on teachers and their job protections.
"The notion that seniority is an impediment to quality education is simply wrong," said Josh Pechthalt, vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles. "There is no evidence that shows that."
The LAUSD board approved the resolution 5-1, with board member Marguerite La Motte abstaining.
Flores introduced the motion last month, following the approval of an court injunction that halted layoffs at three South Los Angeles middle schools in 2010-11 based on a civil rights lawsuit.
The plaintiffs argued that the high number of less- experienced teachers working at the inner-city schools would result in high turnover that would deprive students at the
campuses to their right to an equal education if job cuts were based on seniority alone.
UTLA president A.J. Duffy also argued that the school district already has the right to use other measures other than seniority when making layoff decisions.
Under the Rodriguez consent decree, enacted as a result of a lawsuit against LAUSD, the district adopted a policy to ensure that schools were staffed with a mix of senior and less experienced teachers.
"Once again teachers are being blamed for the district's failure to follow its own policy," Duffy said.
However board members argued that implementing the Rodriguez consent decree would be a cumbersome and expensive process that the district would not be able to manage effectively.
"We don't want to decide who gets to go. We want to advocate for those who get the gift of staying," said LAUSD board president Monica Garcia.
Members of parent organizations, community groups and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also spoke of protecting valuable teachers.
"The current, broken system fails to recognize the invaluable contributions talented teachers make in the lives of our students," Villaraigosa said. "We cannot stand by while our children suffer from teacher layoffs that prevent schools from providing a stable workforce of quality teachers."
The LAUSD board Tuesday also unanimously approved rescinding 502 layoff notices for secondary teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. That brings the total number of layoffs rescinded in the last three months to 2,445 out of an initial plan to layoff about 3,100 employees.
The current number of layoffs expected next year teachers, counselors nurses and librarians now stands at 682. It would have been reduced to 645, but the board also had to send out 37 new layoff notices to teachers that they did not notice earlier due to miscalculations, district officials said.
"It is great to be able to save jobs...we only wish we could do more," Garcia said.
Most jobs have been saved as a result of a deal reached with UTLA, which agreed to taking 12 furlough days over the next two years to save pink-slipped colleagues.
That agreement also cut the school calendar by a week this year and next. Schools were also allowed to buy back positions through shifts in their own budgets.
Still, steep cuts remain in place for next year, including the elimination of half the elementary arts and music teachers and thousands of proposed cuts to non-teaching school staff including cafeteria workers, office staff and custodians.
"I am very pleased to be able to rescind notices and it shows true collaboration between the district and our bargaining units," Cortines said.
"But thousands of jobs will still be cut."