L.A. NOW

Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

ACLU sues city school district and state over teacher layoffs

http://latimes.image2.trb.com/lanews/media/photo/2009-12/51176413.jpg

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of students at three of the city's worst-performing middle schools. The suit claims those students were denied their legal rights to an education and aims to prevent the Los Angeles Unified School District from laying off more teachers. 

The last round of L.A. Unified teacher firings led to chaotic conditions on some campuses that made learning nearly impossible, especially at Samuel Gompers, Edwin Markham and John H. Liechty middle schools, according to a complaint filed by the ACLU, Public Counsel and Morrison & Foerster. Between half and three-quarters of the teachers at those campuses were laid off last year, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court.

Because of a steep budget deficit, L.A. Unified officials issued thousands of layoff notices last year and are expected to order more this year. Citing state law, school districts typically dismiss teachers on the basis of seniority during budgetary shortfalls.

The cuts were especially devastating to Gompers, Markham and Liechty because administrators had recruited younger instructors who wanted to teach in the inner city. When those teachers were dismissed, they were often replaced by instructors who did not want to work in tough, urban schools, the suit alleges.

Many positions were also difficult to fill, so schools turned to substitutes, according to the lawsuit. Some of those teachers allowed the classes to turn chaotic or were unfamiliar with the subject matter. Several substitutes allegedly gave every student a "C" grade because they didn't know the material well enough to grade students.

Teachers at the schools also say that layoffs have led to wasted money. Kirti Baranwal, a seventh-grade teacher at Gompers, said she and three other teachers started a reading program last year. But the other two teachers were laid off, and Baranwal said she had to retrain new staff this year.

"It's a waste of time and money, and it leads to instability for the kids," she said.

Students at Gompers, Markham and Liechty do not have equal access to a quality education as students on other campuses, according to the suit, which also asks that no teachers be fired at the three middle school this year. L.A. Unified is facing a $640-million budget deficit, and officials have warned that teachers could be laid off. The district also has proposed furlough days and shortening the school year to close the gap.

Gompers and Markham are operated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

The lawsuit names the state of California and the school district as defendants.

-- Jason Song

Photo:   Principal Sonia Miller of Gompers Middle School talks with Elspeth Carden on her daily rounds. Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

More breaking news in L.A. Now:

Lawyer says L.A. ethics agency cleared airport officials after travel inquiry

Bicyclists plan ride in downtown L.A. to protest 'unfair treatment'

Animal-rights activists aim protests at UCLA researchers' children, blog says

Suspected skid row drug dealer arrested on gun, drug charges

Former teen idol Leif Garrett pleads not guilty to heroin charge

Reintroducing one doctor’s healthcare reform solution. Can sanity prevail?

'CSI Miami' actress loses battle over security gate; she says she fears stalker

 
Comments () | Archives (47)

They should sue the parents, instead.

Is this a matter of "Last hired, first fired" ? It's my understanding that new teachers are assigned first to the worst-performing schools and, as they get experience, they opt to go to better ones.

The city is already out of money. What other cuts are going to have to be made in order to fight the ACLU in court? Can't the ACLU think of a more productive way to contribute? Well, as the saying goes, "When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

It's great when you can fire teachers and then hire them as long term subs for half of their regular pay. Very smart on the district's part.

Schools run by the Mayor? He failed the Bar Exam 4 times, never passed.

The LAUSD has over 10,000 too many employees on the payroll for the number of students enrolled. Unfortunately, somebody needs to be let go.

New teachers are hired by schools that need them. And with about a 50% turnover rate, struggling schools need them.

So maybe the ACLU will pay for the deficit in the budget?

how about removing union rules that the youngest teachers are fired first? that would solve the problem pretty fast as turnover would be drastically reduced at these schools. unfortunately, teacher unions are about teachers first, not student learning stability.

Remind me why undocumented, non-citizen immigrant children are legally entitled to an education in the United States? Those schools the subject of the lawsuit are full of them. Organizations like the ACLU have the unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible posture that every last child is "entitled" to an education. I see the ramifications of a whole generation of uneducated adults, but, come on! Where do you draw the line? If we were all as "enlightened" as the ACLU - we'd be totally broke! P.S. - We are well on our way there.

Lay off administrators! All they do is write memos to each other, ignore referrals, and go to conferences.

I'm with the ACLU here. LAUSD is a joke. You don't fire teachers mid-stream and expect stability or a consistent education. These kids are the bedrock of the next generation. Short-sheeting them now is only going to lead to teens who don't graduate high school, don't attend college and are stuck in dead-end jobs or dependent on society to help them out.

Who keeps funding the LA dropouts that work for the ACLU?

Has anyone bothered suing the teacher's union for creating rigid regulations that make it impossible to balance the budget in the first place? Oh, and the union also happens to enforce the strict seniority hierarchy, making the "last hired, first fired" approach the only one that that the district is able to take.

Should be suing the Union for blocking firing of bad teachers which would have allowed for some of those teachers to stay

The ACLU should be fined and forced to pay the legal fees for filing this frivolous lawsuit.

Please, they're sueing because "learning is nearly impossible?" You have got to be kidding! Have you been to these schools lately? Learning has been impossible at just about all of them! Thug kids and victim parents keep it that way. Until any accountability is enforced, it will STAY that way. Let's just keep it real.

The city is out of money, but it's not right if more wealthy-city-schools get to keep their teachers while the poorer sections of the district gets shafted with the burden of being the deficit closers.

What about the lawsuit suing the union for doing everything they can to run the district into the ground? I think that constitutes preventing the students their right to an education. If the union didn't insist on keeping contractual items that waste millions of dollars maybe some of these jobs could be saved. Also, I understand that our kids need teachers, etc, but honestly, going through school in the 80's we had classes of 30-40 people at times and we turned out pretty well. As soon as the union understands that they are not immune to the economic troubles of the world and they take their piece of the hurt, then all parties involved will be better off.

ACLU should sue the whole world. We always blame others when we don't have enough money. Maybe the ACLU can print money for us.

"Several substitutes........didn't know the material well enough to grade the students" In a middle school of 6th to 8th graders? Substitutes are college graduates, aren't they?

ACLU, A Club of Losers United.

the unions are bankrupting our cities, states, and nation. what about millions of jobs lost in private sector? where in the constitution does it mandate we pay for illegals education, while they contribute zero in tax revenues?

it just shows you that these students do not want to learn, or have respect for education by the way chaos erupts on substitute teachers.

Why not sue the parents for having incorrible children who refuse to follow rules and learn on their own merits?

Why does the ACLU ignore accountability and responsibility from parents and these children, and choose to place the blame on LAUSD?

ACLU wastes more taxpayers money and does more harm to our nation. A Club for Losers United.

Our society would be SO much better off without the teacher's unions and the ACLU.

The union just wants MORE for the teachers and itself: there is no commitment --or even thought-- to the well-being of the students or of our society. The ACLU wants to defend any bizarro stance, without thinking through the consequences and the costs. When I was in law school I admired the ACLU, but then I guess I grew up. What a laughingstock it is!

It is sad.

At some point parents and students need to be held accountable. Where is their participation in this learning process?

How to fix the LAUSD:

1] Require ALL students to be documented;
2] Allow administrators to hire/fire teachers at their school site based on merit;
3] Hold administrators accountable for their school's performance;
4] Pare down the number of administrators per school;
5] Slash administrators downtown;
5] Apply funds currently used for free lunch programs to enhancing curriculum and after-school opportunities; and
6] Nuke the Teacher's Union.

That doesn't even address the role of parents and endemic socio-economic conditions, but handle some of the above and then come talk to me.

There's no fixing the LAUSD ...

 
1 2 | »

Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video

About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.

Categories




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: