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Appellate court allows teacher layoffs to go forward under new rules

March 7, 2011 |  5:50 pm

A state appellate court refused Monday to delay a settlement that would alter traditional seniority protections in Los Angeles schools, opting instead to let stand a new process that would protect 45 “vulnerable” campuses entirely from layoffs.

The goal of the settlement is to distribute budget-related layoffs more evenly across the L.A. Unified School District and especially to protect improving schools in low-income, high-minority areas. Traditional seniority rules are based on last-in, first-out policies that hit hard at schools that rely heavily on less-experienced teachers.

The decision by the 2nd Appellate District has immediate ramifications -- looming budget cuts could lead to laying off as many as several thousand teachers in the nation’s second-largest school system.

“We are very glad that the court agreed that children in this district have the fundamental right to an equal, quality education,” said Robert Alaniz, a spokesman for L.A. Unified. 

Though the settlement shields some schools -- and reduces layoffs at others -- it also means that some campuses with veteran staffs could have layoffs for the first time, or more layoffs than under the old rules. And it means that teachers with more seniority could potentially lose jobs before teachers at other campuses with less seniority.

“Kids win,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which sued the district along with Morrison & Foerster and the Public Counsel Law Center. With the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attorneys sued on behalf of students at three middle schools that were especially decimated by layoffs during a previous round of budget cuts.

The settlement was opposed by the local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles. The union, in turn, had support from a brief filed by the new state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson.

The backers of the settlement “are coming from a righteous place, but I don’t think they’re looking at the unintended consequences,” said teachers union President A.J. Duffy. “There is the potential for turning well over a hundred schools into a state of turmoil. It is irresponsible for the district to do this.”

Duffy said the union would consider seeking a stay from the state Supreme Court.

Rosenbaum predicted that the union would face an uphill legal challenge.
 
“It's discretionary,” he said of the high court’s obligation to reconsider a stay of the new layoff process. “And they need four votes to hear the case.” 

-- Howard Blume

 

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