L.A. Unified OKs ‘doomsday budget’
Thousands of employees would lose jobs, children would face larger classes, and magnet and preschool programs would experience sharp reductions under a worst-case $5-billion budget plan approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles Board of Education.
But 45 new and low-performing schools could be spared entirely from teacher layoffs as a result of a recent legal settlement to protect campuses from extreme teacher turnover, overriding traditional teacher seniority protections.
“This is our doomsday budget of what might happen,” said board member Tamar Galatzan. “We don’t want to do any of the things on there, but … our parents need to know what could happen if we don’t get more funding.... Our employees need to know that, too.”
The board tally was 5 to 2, with Steve Zimmer and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte dissenting.
Estimated cuts totaling $408 million would be reduced by more than $180 million if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in his plan to extend expiring tax increases.
The state’s largest district is also urging employee groups to accept “shared sacrifices” at the bargaining table as they have in previous years. That has meant unpaid furlough days — resulting in temporary pay cuts — for employees and two consecutive shortened school years for students. And thousands of teachers and other employees still lost jobs; about 5,000 teachers are at risk this time.
Los Angeles Unified is also targeting an estimated $200 million saved through a collaboration with employee unions to reduce health costs. On Tuesday, leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles and the California School Employees Assn., which represents many non-teaching employees, said the savings should remain set aside to defray future benefit costs.
In a related development, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a conference in Denver that school districts need to find ways to make sure poor children have access to highly effective teachers by rethinking their staffing and layoff measures. Teacher layoffs are typically based solely on seniority.
The L.A. Unified budget plan would avoid layoffs at schools with high teacher turnover that have made at least modest academic progress. Ten new schools also at risk of high turnover made the list as well, said Kate Collins, a school district attorney.
The union, which is opposing the district approach in court, has defended traditional “last-hired, first-fired” rules, asserting that there are better ways to avoid high teacher turnover.
With the litigation unresolved, teachers at these “protected” schools would also receive notices of their potential layoffs, because such notices must be provided by March 15.
On Tuesday at least, labor and management united to direct acrimony at the amount of funding for education at the state and federal level and the troubled economy.
“This budget does not support children,” board member Yolie Flores said. “It is not only impossible, it is wrong and it is immoral.”
Times staff writer Jason Song contributed to this report.
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