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L.A. teachers union to announce one-day strike to fight layoffs

May 1, 2009 |  1:02 pm

The union representing Los Angeles teachers is moments away from announcing plans for a one-day strike on May 15 to protest the pending layoffs of as many as 3,500 teachers.

The tentative plan has teachers picketing outside their schools that morning, then meeting at one or more locations for an afternoon rally. Demonstrators would be protesting against increased class sizes for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as the layoffs.

Rallies against layoffs -- outside of school time -- have been taking place episodically across the nation's second-largest school system.

Union leaders hope to pressure district officials to use as much federal economic stimulus money as necessary to avoid layoffs in the 2009-2010 school year, which begins July 1 for year-round schools.

Currently, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines intends to split the money over two years because the financial outlook for the 2010-2011 school year is at least as bad. Cortines and others have argued that employees unions should consider salary reductions, such as unpaid furlough days, to avoid layoffs.

"No one is buying what LAUSD is selling," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, in a release. "It’s not about furlough days or seniority or any of the other issues they are trying to distract us with. Our members know the stimulus money was sent specifically to schools to save jobs, and they are willing to take bold action to make that happen."

Union leaders said they chose May 15 "to have the least conflict with monthlong testing," including the state's STAR tests, which are the most prominent yardsticks for a school's academic standing. But there are Advanced Placement tests, which are important for college applicants, scheduled for that day. 

Some schools may also have been planning to give STAR tests or makeup STAR tests for students on that day. The STAR tests could be rescheduled provided that they are given with a mandated range of days.

Cortines urged teachers to remain in class.

"We need our teachers there to ensure vital instruction is occurring, schools are safe and Advanced Placement and state testing goes on as planned, " he said in a release. "It is irresponsible for the UTLA leadership to push this work stoppage action that violates the law and the union contract. We value our teachers and expect them to carry out their teaching responsibilities every single day including Friday, May 15."

Last month, the Los Angeles Board of Education, by a 4-3 vote, approved a budget package that could result in more than 5,300 job losses, including about 3,500 teachers who lack tenure protection.

-- Howard Blume 

Blume is twittering about budget woes in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Follow his updates: http://twitter.com/howardblume.