L.A. school district and union settle suit over teacher layoffs

Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy, left, shakes hands with senior office tech Bonnie Sugerman at John H. Liechty Middle School.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles school district officials and the teachers union have settled a landmark lawsuit over schools that were disproportionately affected by layoffs.

Under the agreement, 37 schools will receive more counselors, more administrators and more training for teachers. Principals and mentor teachers also will receive financial incentives to remain at these campuses in predominantly low-income and minority areas.

“The youth in greatest peril at these schools will benefit tremendously from the additional administrative and teacher support provided under this program,” said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy in a statement.

But what will not change are the rules for laying off teachers when budget cuts or other factors cause a reduction in staff. Seniority rules — based on when a teacher was hired — will still govern who gets laid off.


An initial settlement to this litigation had altered the seniority rules, but a court of appeal invalidated that pact because the teachers union had not agreed to it. If the new agreement had not been reached, the matter would have gone to trial.

Although the original goal of the lawsuit was to alter how teachers are laid off, attorneys involved in the suit said the new approach is more comprehensive and should lead to long-term improvement at schools that suffer from high faculty turnover.

“These schools will now be regarded as a great place to teach,” said Erin Darling, staff attorney at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles public-interest law firm that was involved in the case.

“What the students gain is a stable core of teachers and principals,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California, which also took part in the litigation along with the firm Morrison & Foerster.

The lawsuit, Reed vs. L.A. Unified, initially was brought to protect three middle schools — Gompers, Markham and Liechty — where the faculty had been decimated by layoffs affecting as many as two-thirds of teachers. The case was broadened to protect similar schools, which were characterized by having less-experienced teachers who served a low-income, minority community.

The first settlement protected designated schools and spread the layoffs more evenly across the nation’s second-largest school system — even if that meant dismissing more experienced teachers.

The L.A. Unified School District had begun to enforce the original settlement when the court intervened. By then, however, some teachers had been laid off under the invalidated pact. Dealing with that issue had been a complicating factor in negotiations. Compensation for these teachers is expected to be part of the overall resolution.

The value of the extra resources for these schools is estimated at $25 million this year. The cost will be covered by increased state funding under a new formula that provides more dollars to schools that serve low-income students, foster children and students learning to speak English.


The seniority system remains under challenge in another legal venue. In the case of Vergara vs. California, plaintiffs are seeking to overturn “last in, first out” layoff rules, contending they violate state constitutional guarantees of an equal education for students.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the agreement at its April 22 meeting. The settlement also must be approved by the court.

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