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L.A. school board chief meets with teachers willing to accept pay cuts

A top Los Angeles school district official is meeting this morning with teachers who are breaking with their union to support pay cuts as a way to avoid layoffs.

Board of Education President Monica Garcia will huddle with teachers from Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, just west of downtown, where more than 30 young or less experienced faculty members have received notice that they might lose their jobs at the end of the year. Delegations from other schools also are expected to attend.

"The concern is that there are schools that are disproportionately impacted by the seniority rule,” Garcia said in an interview Sunday. “At Contreras they’re saying, ‘We’re willing to take on the shared sacrifice so our colleagues can stay at the school.' ”

Next week, the school board is scheduled to act on proposals to slash more than $700 million from the nearly $6 billion general fund of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines agreed to postpone the vote last week in an effort to pursue alternatives to nearly 9,000 layoffs.

Thirty-two veteran Contreras teachers, whose jobs are safe, have signed a letter signaling their willingness to take unpaid days off rather than lose colleagues, whom the letter characterized as “our future generation of teachers and school staff.” The letter continued: “A number of tenured teachers at [Contreras] are willing to take two weeks or more in furlough days to save the jobs of so many of our great new teachers and staff.”

The school work year includes a few days during which students are not in class. The proposed furloughs are likely to apply first to these portions of the schedule. But furloughs totaling more than several days would result inevitably in a shorter school year.

Garcia said she is not inclined to go that far because it would hurt students too much.

The leadership of United Teachers Los Angeles has vowed to oppose any layoffs of teachers, but has also opposed any decrease in pay, including furloughs.

One furlough day for all district employees would save $15 million. Money from a federal economic stimulus plan will offset a substantial portion of the district’s deficit, but various factions are still debating over how and how much of this money can be used to save jobs.

Twenty teachers at Del Olmo Elementary School in Koreatown also signed a petition in support of furloughs. At Del Olmo, 26 of 47 teachers, about two-thirds of the faculty, received notice that they might be laid off, said second-year teacher Robert Contreras, who is among those facing unemployment. Student achievement at Del Olmo has risen rapidly and some staff members have even talked about becoming a charter school rather than accepting a massive faculty turnover, Contreras said.

The other hardest-hit schools include West Adams Preparatory High School, southwest of downtown, where students, parents and teachers rallied Friday night against possible layoffs.

In supporting a discussion of furlough days, Garcia is echoing the position of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, with whom she is closely allied. Through a nonprofit organization, Villaraigosa is overseeing improvement efforts at 10 low-performing campuses. At one of them, the Santee Education Complex, south of downtown, a group of teachers acting without union sanction recently boycotted classes for an hour to call attention to imminent layoffs and a looming increase in class sizes.

For its part, the teachers union leadership has applied pressure on district officials by helping to organize numerous demonstrations outside of class time. But union leaders also must contend with internal dissent. Last week, the union’s House of Representatives voted to recommend a “no” vote on a recent contract settlement, even though it avoids furlough days and other pay reductions.

-- Howard Blume

Comments () | Archives (22)

Outrageous! The leadership of LAUSD spends almost 200 million per year on contractors. Eliminate those contracts and they'll have enough to pay teachers.

Wow, teachers actually putting their students' welfare ahead of their own pathetic selfishness for once. Is this a late April Fool's story?

Mr. Johnson, you obviously don't personally know many teachers. Though there are some pathetic, selfish individuals who hold teaching positions, they are not teachers.

The union does not always represent the sentiment of its members who more often than not are willing to give up much for their colleagues and always sacrifice greatly for their students.

Personally, I don't find wanting to provide for my four daughters and my wife to be a pathetic nor selfish endeavor. Please be a little more cautious when making blanket accusations.

UTLA is out of step with its members and with economic reality.

Although only four teachers at my high school received pink slips, consensus at our last union chapter meeting was to take a pay cut rather than see teachers and students suffer the severe consequences that will come with layoffs.

Hi, Bob.

Never before have I been aware that in fighting for my job, I am pathetically selfish at the expense of my student's welfare. Thanks to your trenchant analysis, I realize now the error of my ways. On behalf of all teachers--all the pathetically selfish one's which, in your eyes, includes anyone fighting against the kind of waste Mortimer was talking about so that jobs can be saved--we're sorry. We're really, really sorry.

And if you think the above paragraph is in any way genuine, then your sense of satire is just as weak as your grasp of the issues. Now please go away.

Bob Johnson you are an ASS! How dare you say teachers are selfish! The whole concept of teaching is a "giving" one. You are either dumb or just plain old jealous. And yes, their are teachers who would rather make an even LOWER salary to save the jobs of their colleagues. But then there is the bloated LAUSD FAT CATS that would NEVER even consider giving up any of their salary.

"Next week, the school board is scheduled to act on proposals to slash more than $700 million" … so how just $200 million going to contractors are going to help? And who is going to do the contractor's job? The reason we have contractors is because otherwise people make unions (read UTLA) and expect outrageous benefits such as job security and seniority rules … I wish all teachers would leave UTLA and show what these concerned teachers have, self-sacrifice for the good of the students!

Call me selfish. This is one teacher who will NOT accept furlough days.

Accepting furlough days puts us in the position that forever more we'll be asked to give up salary to balance the district's books. There are still far, far too many administrators both on site and in district offices. Cut them. As an earlier poster said, cut contractors. There's plenty of waste to go before you go after teachers.

What many people outside the education system don't know is that teachers routinely act in ways that are not in their best interests. For example, LAUSD teachers spend millions of dollars annually on school supplies for their classrooms. How many of you work for a company that expects you to bring in your own pencils and papers to the office? Also, many teachers recently voted to abandon the three-track year-round school calendar, resulting in two weeks more work for themselves without an increase in pay. How many of you would have voted to work two extra weeks?

But despite the overwhelming evidence that teachers put students first, LAUSD treats us like crap. Their first proposal to close the budget gap was to furlough us during our Christmas vacation. So, unlike other state employees that were given days off to compensate for their cut in pay, we would have just had our pay cut – in violation of a contract LAUSD had just finished negotiating. The truth is LAUSD could close this budget gap instantly if it was willing to cut the length of the school year as many other school districts have done.

I strongly disagree with Monica Garcia's comment about how shortening the school year by a few days would hurt the kids. Firing young and enthusiastic teachers would be less harmful? Is she serious? The kids would hardly notice, especially if those furlough days are at the end of the year when they are burned out. I am disgusted with UTLA for not backing these furlough days to save the jobs of so many good teachers. They are all about greed and politics!

Get rid of the consultants first and then the teachers. Your priority are the teachers, not the consultants.

So the Times attack on the unions intensifies. Seems to me I have heard this tune before.

Meanwhile maybe you can assign a cub reporter to investigating the strangling results of the chronic underfunding of public education and the theft of teachers cost-of-living-adjustments for the last few years...or maybe ask Brewer to return some of his windfall buyout from last December.

Awesome. Teachers that "get" it.

We have police officers in the Southland giving back days to keep their ranks employed, and it's hard to talk to anyone who hasn't suffered some sort of downsizing.

If the union leadership decides to strong arm their way through this, maybe it is time to talk Charter with the teachers who are willing to make concessions, along with all the other unions willing to talk furlough days.

The cuts are awful, unimaginable, and draconian. But it's going to take a whole lot of very involved, creative people (teachers, administrators, etc) to mitigate the damage that the proposed cuts will cost. And anyone that refuses to at least LOOK at every possible expense and weigh what can be cut can NOT be part of the solution.

There is so much that can be looked at other than teacher's salaries. Special Ed creates a huge burden on the schools. It should be funded separately and not take away from the general budget. Special Ed programs have excessivel aides and paperwork that cost a lot. The schools waste a ton on printing and copier usage rather than mandate electronic communications. The district needs to get smart with their technology and stop putting millions into ineffective and high maintenance softwares like the payroll program. How about selling the downtown real estate and spreading out district offices to empty school bungalows?

Just the FACTS:
Teacher pay: #1
CA Student Performance: #47
CA Per Capita Spending on Students: #40
Student/Teacher Ratio: #49 (21.1)
CA drop out rate: #20

The best paid, but producing the stupidest graduates, for those that do graduate. And, yet, you want us to protect your employment and threaten us taxpayers if we do not?

Please, quit, and join the others at McDonalds, it's obvious we cant do worse.

Even before being asked to take a pay cut, teachers have always done their job with less than adequate resources. There are teachers everyday in LAUSD who work in deplorable conditions and circumstances. We would be taking a step backwards by giving the district some of our salary back. Maybe putting some of the administrators (experienced teachers) back in the class is not such a bad thing. In most cases, new teachers are not the best instructors, it takes upwards of 5 years to truly develop into an accomplished educator.

Being a new teacher or a veteran teacher doesn't make you any better than anybody else.
Give up pay for you because you just started a career I have been involved in for 20 years.
Revisit something we fought so hard to get while you were still in high school. No, I don't think so.

Of course, those "new" teachers at those schools are talking to Monica Garcia. I would be exploring any options, too, if I were about to lose my job.
As a teacher for 13 years, I have seen many colleagues come and go. Those that do have the seniority were the ones that stuck it out even though the going got rough and the pay was far below standard. If you have ever been in the classroom, you know that teaching is not an easy job and many in the profession leave way before 5 years of teaching. These "new" teachers that are trying to make concessions with Ms. Garcia may not even be teaching in a year or two.
Nonetheless, as a teacher, I do not want to see class sizes go up and I do not want to see people lose their jobs. I would be willing to give up wasteful staff development days that repeat the same material every year. I would also concede to 1 or 2 furlough days. The rest the district needs to solve themselves.

Dudeman1961 and Bob Johnson,
A.) The fact that you can sit around at your job, reading and commenting on LATimes demonstrates one of many luxuries you enjoy which hard-working teachers do not. I regularly work 10-12 hour days and never stop moving, teaching, planning, crisis-managing, etc.
B.) For the same amount of time and energy I could have earned a law, business, or other graduate degree but I CHOSE to accept drastically less pay to pursue this profession after having successfully completed my GRE and LSAT testing.
C.) If we want educated people from our top institutions of higher learning to CHOSE this profession over others, then we need to pay them a reasonably comparable salary to what they could earn in fields which require comparable education and preparation. I know many people who stood at the same crossroads that I did but decided that teaching was too tough a job with too little financial reward and societal respect.
D.) The cost of living in CA is the reason for the higher salaries. Yet, those salaries still come no where near the necessary income to buy a house or build a life in this economy.

Ignorant attitudes such as yours contribute to the message that we do not value the teaching profession. Is it no wonder tat 50% of all new teachers leave the field of education within the first 5 years? I don't know a single teacher who got into this field for their own self-aggrandizement. ALL teachers start off altruistic and dedicated. However, I have seen many teachers disillusioned and deflated. I wonder why that is...

Teacher and Gilbert,
Unfortunately, too many of our colleagues share your attitude of waiting for "new" teachers to fail and deeming them less worthy of our support because they don't have seniority. Perhaps this condescension contributes to an environment that encourages new teacher turnover. Veteran teachers need to mentor new teachers, not wait for them to fail. Additionally, Gilbert, you are assuming that most of these new teachers are young college graduates...what about those of us who changed careers and weren't in high school when you were first teaching? Are we less worthy of the job security you enjoy, something that few other professions guarantee? Teachers should be rewarded for their professionalism and skill, not because they managed to "stick it out".

While furloughs sound like a good idea if it really meant that it would save jobs, how does anyone know that LAUSD would actually honor this? Has LAUSD put anything in writing that if the union agrees to this, then those teachers in danger of being laid off would be guaranteed a job?

No one likes the idea of people losing their jobs, but what guarantee is there that those willing to agree to this will in fact secure the position of any teacher?

I cannot get angry at people's indifference to teachers. The ones that are voicing these opinions are the ones who never succeeded in school or who didn't have a good teacher. But the real problem isn't teacher incompetence. It lies with poor administrators who aren't able to weed out these people before they are there long enough for tenure.

I worked pretty hard today. I started my day at 7:45 and ended it at 5.55. Even with that, I brought some more work home. I spent an hour after school today meeting with a parent regarding her son. This isn't required or in my contract. I chose to do it If I can have a positive impact on a child, I will.
My reason for teaching. I grew up in a very affluent family. Grown men called me "Mr. _____" when I was 10 years old.
My brother dropped out of high school and pays for it every day of his life. If he had someone who cared about him like I care about my students, he might have continued on. I've been very fortunate in having several teachers in my life who really put forth everything they had. Dr. Cirincione at Rockhurst Collegeand Debbi Spickelmier were two of the biggest influences in my life. Believing that life has more meaning than what I can acquire, I wanted to work in a field where I could reach out and help others. Hence,teaching. I'm good at it. I've been honored with teacher of the year in my district and have countless students who return year after year thanking me for my impact on their life. I've had students nominate me in Who's Who Among America's Teachers. When I first received notification of this, I thought it was a commercial hoax. But when I found out that the nomination process is carried out only by students who finish at the top of their graduating class and have to nominate two teachers who helped them, I was astounded.

As for charter schools, I've seen a few good ones, but an awful lot of bad ones. Being a for profit institution, there are a lot of teachers there who are inexperienced, not educated, non-credentialed, and there as a fall back from other setbacks in life.

If you really want to make a difference, you should get away from your computer, go to your local school and volunteer to help out. After spending a few days there, you should address your concerns with the administration. If you feel your ideas fall on deaf ears, you should contact a school board member. They are your oversight committee. If your voice still isn't heard, you can organize to vote out your school board. But that would take work.

To make a difference, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. I know because I do.


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