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State agency files two claims against LAUSD reforms

May 26, 2011 | 10:55 am

A state agency has filed complaints against the Los Angeles Unified School District over a new teacher evaluation system and the forced restaffing of Jordan High School.

In both cases, the Public Employees Relations Board is following up on filings by the United Teachers Los Angeles union, which argues the school system is pursuing unproven reforms.

Officials with the union and school district learned of the agency’s action late Wednesday.

One effort involves Jordan High School in Watts, which former Supt. Ramon C. Cortines announced in January would be “restructured.”

Staff members would have to reinterview for their jobs, and campus management would be split between a charter-school operator and a nonprofit group controlled by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Cortines said.

The other move involves the testing of a new teacher evaluation system, which would link student scores on standardized tests to an instructor’s job-performance rating.

The legal case brought by the state centers on whether LAUSD followed the state’s collective-bargaining regulations. The complaint says preliminary evidence suggests the school district did not bargain in good faith.

District officials have denied wrongdoing and insist reforms are needed to improve student learning.

An internal memo to top district officials said the complaint was expected.

“The standard for issuance is quite low,” said the e-mail from general counsel David Holmquist. “Indeed, it is only when a case cannot be made as a matter of law that [the employment board] refrains from allowing the matter to proceed to a hearing.”

The union took issue with the interpretation, noting the state action closely followed its own filings earlier this month.

“It’s not pro forma at all,” said union attorney Jesus Quinonez. The employment board “dismisses hundreds of charges. You have to establish the basis of a violation” for a complaint to go forward.

The next step is a settlement conference and a hearing before an administrative law judge, if necessary.

Both sides are waiting to see if the employment board will seek an injunction to stop the district from proceeding with its school-improvement strategies until the legal issue is settled.

Other claims by the teachers union and by the administrators union are pending with the employment board and in civil court.

RELATED:

L.A. school board, union still at odds over budget

L.A. County education officials OK Compton charter school

-- Howard Blume

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