Teachers agree to shorten LAUSD school year

Los Angeles teachers union members have ratified a deal to shorten the school calendar this and next year, officials announced Saturday.

Nearly 80% of United Teachers Los Angeles members who cast ballots approved of the deal, which could save the Los Angeles Unified School District up to $140 million, save the jobs of about 2,100 employees and maintain class sizes.

Under the agreement, which was negotiated over several months, teachers would take an unpaid day off the Friday before Memorial Day and schools would close four days earlier for summer vacation. Seven additional instructional days would be cut from the 2010-11 academic year.

The school district is facing a budget deficit of up to $640 million and has been searching for ways to cut costs. Several unions, including those representing cafeteria workers and bus drivers, have agreed to take unpaid days off. Many non-unionized district employees, including upper management, have also begun to take furloughs.

School district and union leaders had previously said they were against shortening the school year because it would hurt instruction and amount to a pay cut for teachers. But officials decided it was the best option to preserve classroom jobs.

“I appreciate the understanding of the district’s teachers and the sacrifices they are making in instructional time and salary,” Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement.

Instructors will have to condense their lesson plans to fit the schedule, and many parents will have to make alternative child-care plans.

The agreement will become effective if approved by the school board Tuesday.

“I have no reason to think it won’t” be approved, said board member Yolie Flores, who called it the best choice under the circumstances.

The administrators union has tentatively agreed to a similar deal. Members are voting by mail and results should be known this week. Administrators union members have said they expect the deal to be approved.

Even if the deals are approved, school district officials will have to cut millions to avoid going into the red. Teachers union President A.J. Duffy said he would keep pressing for more cuts to the district’s bureaucracy.

“We will be vigilant in continuing to force the district to be more efficient and to drive resources to local school sites,” Duffy said.