Teachers under siege in LA school district
Published Nov 21, 2010 8:05 PM
The global capitalist crisis is taking a heavy toll on public education. As in
many other districts, teachers and other education workers in the Los Angeles
Unified School District, the second largest in the United States, are under
This spring LAUSD handed “Reduction in Force” notices to 5,200
workers, mostly teachers. In October the district handed out another 4,600
notices that will result in 990 layoffs and more than 3,000 transfers —
many to jobs with fewer hours and less pay — to take effect on Nov. 30.
The primary targets of these layoffs and transfers are mostly out-of-classroom
workers, like maintenance, custodial, cafeteria and office staff, whose
services are crucial to the schools.
On Nov. 19 members of United Teachers Los Angeles will carry out informational
leafleting to reach out to parents about the layoffs and the problems they will
cause in the schools. The union is calling for a protest at the school board
meeting on Nov. 30. (www.utla.net)
LAUSD claims that state budget cuts have left them with a huge shortfall.
California received about $1.2 billion from the state bailout legislation that
Congress passed in September. LAUSD received its share.
The district also found several hundred million dollars in the budget that was
previously undetected, but it is still not rescinding the layoffs. UTLA has
repeatedly urged the district to fight for more funding. Instead, LAUSD is
blaming the union for all the district’s failures, looking for ways to
weaken the union, and trying to turn parents against the union.
Fighting to help the poorest schools
An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit settlement against LAUSD throws out
seniority protection for workers in 45 schools in the current round of layoffs.
Although LAUSD was the defendant, the settlement is favored by Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa and by Schools Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
Instead of improving conditions for the students who were ostensibly the
plaintiffs, the suit was transformed into a weapon against seniority rights.
Negotiations were carried out with no input from any of the unions that
represent LAUSD workers. The suit was launched on behalf of three schools that
were disproportionately hit in the layoffs last year and that were left even
more understaffed than others in the district. During the following semester, a
string of substitute teachers struggled but didn’t succeed at their
LAUSD officials know that the problem is one of underfunding and not the
unions’ seniority plan. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a consent decree
forced the district to take measures to reverse the disparity in the poorest
schools between underfunding and the lack of experienced teachers. It compelled
them to set aside extra funds for teacher training in poor schools where there
were fewer veteran teachers and to go to extra lengths to recruit more
experienced teachers. It was beginning to work; the key ingredient was
In 2006 the consent decree ended, and the progress that had been made waned.
Lawyers for LAUSD argued in court that an extension of the decree was
unwarranted because the policy changes that occurred would be continued
voluntarily. But that didn’t happen, so the poorest schools in the
district began losing their most experienced teachers again.
Since 2006 when the decree expired, UTLA has asked LAUSD to join with them in
devising a plan to improve the disparity and to continue efforts to get more
veteran teachers into the poorest schools. However, LAUSD has ignored all such
appeals. The lawsuit’s settlement will now further reduce the pool of
experienced teachers by attacking seniority rights. A judge must still ratify
the decision. Meanwhile, the teachers’ union is pulling out all the stops
to try to reverse it.
Some elements in the capitalist class want to sabotage public education. Their
interests lie in charter schools, which open the possibility for privatization.
Already, LAUSD has 170 charter schools within the district, the largest number
in the country. Another 43 schools are up for bid by charter organizations.
Most charter schools are non-union, and studies show that many haven’t
lived up to their promise. Supporters like the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, The Walton Family, Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad and others
claim to want “innovation” and “fresh ideas” to save
the education system. What the capitalists really want is to eliminate unions
so they can drive wages down further.
The struggle for the unions that represent workers in the Los Angeles school
district is to try to establish some control over how the waves of layoffs
occur. They need solidarity from all organized labor and the entire working
class during this crisis.
The best strategy to stop the attacks and win full funding for public education
must include fighting for the rights of communities that have endured racism
and neglect by the Los Angeles school district and in the process build
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