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Budget ax poised to fall at L.A. schools

An increasingly familiar drama will play out at school district headquarters as the Los Angeles Board of Education takes up cost-cutting measures that could eliminate thousands of jobs and leads to larger classes, fewer counselors, unswept hallways and unstaffed libraries.

For a second consecutive meeting, the school board will weigh proposals projected to save $596.1 million from a general fund of nearly $6 billion. Employees, union leaders and parents are expected to descend on 333 S. Beaudry Ave., just west of downtown, as they have periodically for months during previous rounds of budget slashing and protracted labor contract negotiations.

Budget problems in the Los Angeles Unified School District and other school systems are a direct fallout of  the national and state economic downturn, exacerbated locally by declining enrollment.

The budget ax never fell during the previous session, when Supt. Ramon C. Cortines backed down from insisting on an immediate vote to schedule meetings with any group ready to offer alternatives that would spare jobs and services. He did not get one thing that top officials have been suggesting: Concessions from the teachers union that would, in effect, reduce pay to save jobs.

The leadership of United Teachers Los Angeles has insisted there is enough money to avoid teacher layoffs. Other employee unions have been willing to discuss unpaid furlough days.

On Monday, one category of employees received good news.

Cortines announced he would recommend rescinding notices of possible layoffs that were sent to nearly 2,000 permanent elementary school teachers. He cited greater confidence in the district's ability to access additional funds from the federal economic stimulus package as a factor. Another helpful development was the decision by about 600 employees to accept early retirement.

Critics insist the greatest factor that changed was the ratcheting up of pressure on district officials.

The union also had leverage, through the state education code, to insist on hearings for every permanent teacher who received a layoff notice. The district had projected those hearings to cost more than $9.5 million. The hearings also would have had to occur before the end of the school year, and officials feared they would disrupt classes, as well as state testing. Substitutes would have replaced classroom teachers attending the hearings.

Still at risk of losing jobs are about 3,500 teachers who lack tenure protections. They are not entitled to hearings. More than 2,000 other non-teaching employees also risk losing their positions.

-- Howard Blume

Comments () | Archives (5)

Does anybody know what percentage of LAUSD staff actually teach class? If it's less than 90%, there is some serious work to be done. Any travel by school administrators must be canceled.

Protesting is all well and good, but what are your solutions, teachers? The people can't take any more tax increases, and with so many loosing jobs, shouldn't the city and state cut spending as well to offset losses in revenue? How about going to a 401(k) and getting rid of tenure. I don't know of any job in the public sector where you can bump someone better than you out of a job just because you've been around longer. Oh, and if UTLA thinks that there's enough money, why aren't they proposing an alternative budget?

Teachers so not have to come up with solutions, if they were responsible for solutions instead of complaining we wouldn't have one of the worse school districts in the country. For some reason they feel they are anointed even when I know for a fact that kids get pushed through LAUSD that should not even graduate. The California Teachers Assoc. is supporting initiatives in the upcoming special election (which is costing us millions) that takes money from initiatives we voted on in the past for early education and the mentally ill. The state also want to be able to take, oops I mean borrow from the lottery. We need qualified people who know how to balance a budget and can run big organizations like the school district. This mismanagement of the city and state must come to an end. For the mayor and governor to be afraid to make cuts to certain organizations specifically unions should tell you who is really in charge. Every election regular and special we hear about the teachers, firefighters, law enforcement, and nurses like that is all the work force consists of. We know it's not but their power and influence is a bit out of control. When have they supported any other workers (especially non union workers)? They don't care if 50% of our salary goes towards taxes as long as they get what they want. These are all important jobs but to continuously extort money out of tax payers to cover their pay in increase (which are not guaranteed in the private industry) and benefits packages is wrong. Why do we have all the elections if the initiatives are constantly over turned or the monies for them are diverted else where (not to mention the money wasted on all these special elections)?

Everyone in every department thinks their job is most important. Unfortunately, for years, program after program, after fluffy program was added. The dollars just flowed into new programs. Forget about core subjects, we need thousands of staff to take over the jobs of parents. And now we can't pay for them and we call it a cut. It's not a ct. It's a canceling of programs that never should have been started. Here's a tip: If your job does not teach a child to read, write, or do arithmetic, it is fluff. Why do working parents need to make cuts and lose their jobs, but privileged people who work for LAUSD are special? I think not. Get over yourselves.

Time to face reality. Real estate and employment are plunging and so are the expected property/income tax revenues that have paid for everything so far and unless homesales/salaries skyrocket those revenues won't be returning. Those stupid stimulus bills are just delaying the inevitable. After a year who believes that the economy will just drive itself without more bailout help from the feds? And that's not going to happen. By then everybody-even the dumbest liberal tax-and-spenders-will have figured out that no bailout will save this ship. We all enjoyed the smoke-and-mirrors game that the real-estate bubble created but the smoke has cleared....and we find the money never really existed except on paper. We've got to run our schools and state government on realistic expectations of revenue now. And if we cannot afford as many teachers or as many social programs then so be it. Or are you ready to dump another lifetime burden on your children and grandchildren?


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