By: David Feldman | PSL.web – Party for Socialism and Liberation - http://bit.ly/bwiAks
Sunday, October 31, 2010 - On Oct.5, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Los Angeles Unified School District reached an agreement intended to limit layoffs that actually undermines teacher seniority rules—doing little to aid the inner-city children it professes to
L.A. teachers protest cutbacks, 2009
The ACLU had sued both California and the school district because massive education cuts and layoffs have denied inner-city students their right to a quality education, as enshrined in the state constitution. Unfortunately, the agreement between the ACLU and LAUSD—awaiting approval from a judge—does little to help poor and working-class students. Instead, it attacks one of the fundamental rights of teachers—protection from layoffs based on seniority.
It is true that the ongoing attacks on public education have had the most drastic effects on poor, working-class students—especially those who live in oppressed communities. Large cuts to education and teacher layoffs have left schools in poor and oppressed communities struggling to provide even the most basic education and resources.
However, hard-fought union contracts that protect teachers from layoffs based on seniority are not the problem. The agreement between ACLU and LAUSD completely sidesteps the teachers’ union—a grievous attack on teachers’ rights in the midst of a climate of attacks on public education.
The Los Angeles Times and other media have reported on layoffs decimating the faculty of many LAUSD schools, especially in the inner city where teacher turnover and absenteeism are highest. Teachers with the ability to find new jobs do so, forcing schools to hire the most inexperienced teachers who face difficult working conditions due to a lack of resources.
Undoing seniority rules and laying off veteran teachers will not solve the crisis in public education. In fact, it plays into the hands of those attacking public education and seeking to break the teachers’ unions. LAUSD, the LA Times and other institutions of U.S. capitalist society are all complicit in the attacks.
For instance, LAUSD recently received over $1 billion from the federal government for the specific purpose of stopping all teacher layoffs. However, the district has chosen not to spend this money this school year, despite the fact that if it were used for the purpose for which it was intended, there would be no reason to lay off a single teacher. Instead of using the funds to ensure stability and providing every student with a qualified teacher, the district is cynically using the budget crisis to weaken teacher protections that were won through years of struggle.
The ACLU’s agreement was negotiated with LAUSD so that students in oppressed neighborhoods can keep their teachers—an honorable intention. But the reality is far from honorable. The agreement—undermining the power of the teachers’ unions—has created an atmosphere in which all teachers are in danger. With experienced teachers now more easily removed from their positions, schools will increasingly be filled with inexperienced teachers. Less-experienced teachers are cheaper due to lower salary and benefit costs.
For the capitalist bosses, their cronies in government and the district bureaucracy, a revolving door of teachers who work for a few years and burn out is ideal. They do not care if the quality of education suffers, since most jobs being created these days require little education. As they gut resources for public education, they blame the crisis on teachers and other education workers—an utterly false proposition.
For the children served by public schools, the undermining of teacher seniority could well lower quality education. Research indicates that experienced teachers are generally more effective than novices.
Progressive people should strongly oppose the ongoing attacks against teachers’ rights, including the recent deal that the Los Angeles Unified School District made with the ACLU to weaken teacher seniority. The Party for Socialism and Liberation calls for an end to all teacher layoffs and a reinstatement of teacher protections. We recognize the right of all students to quality and comprehensive public education delivered by education workers who are respected and provided decent working conditions.
The truth is that the recent actions undertaken by the district are not about improving education. They are about weakening benefits and the unions that fight for them. Working-class people should not be fooled. The recent attacks on seniority are a part of a broader campaign against unions and public education. Teachers, parents and supporters must take to the streets and fight back.