Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DAY OF UPHEAVAL AT LAUSD: Teachers, unions protest as LAUSD sends last of 7,300 pink slips


By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

Classroom chairs for teachers who were pink slipped at Vintage Magnet School in North Hills are lined up outside of the school before the start of school tuesday. Teachers, parents and students passed out flyers and showed their support for the pink slipped teachers before the start of school. (David Crane/LA Daily News)

03/15/2011 09:45:45 PM PDT -Sporting red T-shirts to symbolize solidarity, educators rallied Tuesday at campuses across Los Angeles Unified as the district sent out the last of the 7,300 pink slips to employees targeted for layoff.

The notices were sent this month to teachers, counselors, school nurses and librarians as Los Angeles Unified struggles to close a $408 million deficit in the 2011-12 budget. The district must notify anyone whose position might be eliminated, although it is unlikely that everyone who received a pink slip will lose their job.

Still, the notices elicited strong emotions from educators like Thomas Bullis, a fifth-grade teacher at Vintage Math, Science and Technology Magnet Elementary in North Hills.

"There is a sense of frustration and anger ... that after eight years of service to the district, this is what I get," said Bullis, adding that he has attended every after-school event, talent show and fund-raiser during his time at Vintage.

At LAUSD headquarters, parents like Jane Poole are concerned about the effects the layoffs may have in the classroom.

"I have a senior who is graduating from Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies who has gotten into four colleges," Poole said, "but I have a sixth-grader and I'm scared for her."

And she wondered whether LAUSD administrators have looked at other ways to cut spending or save money.

"I just don't feel like there is enough transparency," Poole said.

Officials with United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district's 40,000 teachers, have asked members and parents to lobby district officials to reprioritize spending.

"This district has spent a fortune dismantling a bureaucracy they spent a fortune in creating," UTLA President A.J. Duffy said.

He suggested eliminating mini-districts and consolidating administrators in the district's downtown headquarters as ways to immediately cut costs.

District officials, however, say their financial problems are complex and - coupled with continually shrinking enrollment - cannot be fixed with piecemeal savings.

Officials still hope, however, that Gov. Jerry Brown will persuade the Legislature - which is embroiled in a budget battle of its own - to place a series of tax extensions on the June ballot. If approved by voters, the tax revenue would generate $183 million for Los Angeles Unified and help avert more cuts to schools.

"How dare they not let us express our voices in June at the ballot box," said LAUSD Superintendent-elect John Deasy.

"If we do not stand together now and say enough is enough ... there will be problems for every child at every school."

The layoff process will differ this year because of the settlement of a lawsuit which challenged the district's policy of basing terminations on employee seniority.

The suit claimed that students were being denied access to a free and equal education because a higher proportion of less-experienced teachers work at inner-city schools.

The settlement essentially shields 45 schools from losing teachers and principals. These campuses were selected based on the proportion of newer teachers on staff, as well as their academic performance.

The settlement also stipulates that no one campus can lose a significantly higher proportion of teachers than another.

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