Monday, March 9, 2015

To cut deficit, LAUSD is proposing layoffs of hundreds of teachers - LA School Report

To cut deficit, LAUSD is proposing layoffs of hundreds of teachers

UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning  (photo credit: UTLA)

UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning (photo credit: UTLA)

* UPDATED

Despite new money from the state, LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines is taking direct aim at the district's $160 million budget deficit with proposed layoffs that include hundreds of teachers.

District officials have calculated that to reduce the deficit, the number of teachers, administrators, counselors and nurses — certificated employees — must be reduced by 609 for the 2015-2016 academic year. Additional cuts are projected to come from among support staff employees.

Already, said Lydia Ramos, a district spokeswoman, departments throughout district headquarters are being reduced by at least 8 percent with some as much as 40 percent.

The proposed layoffs will be presented to the school board at its monthly meeting tomorrow, and they come as the state has moved forward from a long period of recession There was additional optimism across the district based on the expectations that Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget, due in May, would identify an increase in spending for state public schools.

But Ramos said the proposed layoffs are aimed at reducing a "structural" deficit, which cannot be eliminated by one-time funds.

"Laying off permanent certificated employees will permit the district to meet district and student needs as a result of continued and unresolved budgetary shortfalls for the 2015-2016 academic school year," district staff told board members in an analysis as a prelude to tomorrow's meeting.

Alex-Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, called the proposed action "out of step" with the chronic challenges faced at district school sites.

By terms of the district's labor agreement with the teachers union, UTLA, certificated employees must be notified by March 15 that they could be laid or reassigned. Once the number of non-certificated employees is determined, the district has 60 days to notify them.

For relations between the district and UTLA, proposed layoffs could not come at a worse time. After months of stalled negotiations for a new labor contract, the sides are now before the state Public Employee Relations Board seeking mediation.

"There's a national civil rights movement to curb the school to prison pipeline.  Yet, LAUSD is cutting counselors and social workers," Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report, citing some of the possible district target cuts. "There's huge income inequality and a tremendous need for job training for adults. Yet, LAUSD is cutting Adult Education. There's 3,000 classes in the city with over 45 students.  Yet, LAUSD is cutting educators to raise class size.  LAUSD is simply out of step with the needs at schools."

The union has been standing firm on seeking an 8.5 percent pay raise for teachers, one of a dozen demands, while the district is offering 5 percent. Union officials insist the money is readily available, based on expectations of more money from the state.

An inability to close the gap could lead to a teachers strike. 

Other major issues before the board tomorrow include large-scale upgrades to some of the districts oldest and most rundown schools. In all, the improvements will cost the district upwards of $43 million in bond funds.

The Facilities department is recommending the approval of $5.5 million for a series of modernization projects at 11 school sites. Another series of projects under the Strategic Execution Plan, asks the board to sign off on spending $30 million on energy efficient lighting upgrades at school sites throughout the district. And, Facilities says, more than $8 million is needed to address critical school repair needs at three additional schools.

Accelerated Elementary Charter School (ACES) is increasing its request of bond funds to $12.9 million from $5 million to build a new campus.

There are two charter schools renewals likely before the board. The charters for Ararat Charter School in Van Nuys and Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise in South LA have been given the green light by the Charter Schools Division. However, an application by Prepa Tec Los Angeles High School in Huntington Park will almost certainly be denied. According to the district's charter schools department, the group presented "an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school."

Canoga Park High School withdrew its charter conversion request after the charter schools division recommended the board deny its petition. School officials said they will try again at a later time.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan is proposing a plan to streamline the district's process for creating magnet school programs. Magnet schools are often seen as the best solution for countering the proliferation of charter schools and subsequent flight of students from traditional public schools.

Galatzan's resolution directs the superintendent to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that assesses current trends in magnet school enrollment, broken down according to geographic Educational Service Center and establishes guidelines for long-term goals and strategies.


*Adds comment from UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl

 



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