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Court rejects settlement to shield some L.A. schools from layoffs

August 10, 2012 |  3:33 pm

A state appeals court Friday nullified a settlement that allowed the Los Angeles Unified School District to shield certain schools from layoffs during budget crises, setting the stage for future legal battles.

The decision by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal voided a settlement in Reed vs. L.A. Unified that allowed the district to bypass 45 schools in times when seniority-based layoffs are necessary. Those campuses, the district argued, would be heavily affected because many of their faculty members have taught for fewer years and thus accrued less seniority.

Citing state law, school districts typically dismiss teachers on the basis of seniority during budgetary shortfalls. The lawsuit, filed in 2010 on behalf of students at three of the city's worst-performing middle schools, claimed that those students were denied their legal rights to an education and aimed to prevent L.A. Unified from laying off more teachers there.

United Teachers Los Angeles appealed. The union contended that the court had not decided on the merits of the students’ claim and that the settlement could potentially negate the seniority rights of its members. The union also argued that it had not had sufficient opportunity to argue its case before the settlement was approved.

The court agreed, ruling that the union deserves a trial to argue against the merits of the students’ claim.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel and Morrison & Foerster, who represent the students, said they would appeal to the California Supreme Court. Until the high court decides on the request, the settlement will remain in place.

“The facts are clear that when students at struggling schools lose their teachers to layoffs, they also lose their chance at a quality education,” the attorneys said in a statement.

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy said the decision simply means that the district will continue to fight in a different court to protect students’ rights.

“In the meantime, nothing has changed,” Deasy said. “We are opening school for next year with our students and staff protected.”

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-- Stephen Ceasar

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