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Hard times are here again for local schools and teachers after the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to approve more than 7,000 layoffs of teachers and administrators to shrink the district’s deficit of more than $400 million. It is the third straight year the LAUSD announced massive budget cuts and layoffs.
“Our school teachers are still reeling from the deep cuts in the past two years that led to larger class sizes and stressful, unclear employment status for thousands of dedicated, hard-working educators,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).
The layoff projections are based on a worst-case scenario if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed June ballot initiative to extend current tax rates for five years does not pass.
“This is not a budget plan that we endorse but it is one we must use to buy us time so we can find ways to avoid these drastic measures,” said Dr. John Deasy, incoming superintendent of LAUSD. “We cannot use hope as a strategy in our budget. We must again work together to protect, preserve and restore critical programs and services to our students.”
Extending the current tax rates would raise $183 million dollars for the LAUSD, cutting the deficit from $408 million to $225 million and could possibly mean less layoffs, but that would be little comfort to local high schools.
“The last three years have been some of the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Ed Zubiate, principal at Fairfax High School. “It’s really the perfect storm.”
Zubiate said the news could not come at a worse time for Fairfax High as some federal incentive money the school received is set to run out in the 2011-2012 school year. That money helped save some jobs, but coupled with the announced layoffs, Zubiate expects the school to get hit hard. He predicts to lay off 10 teachers if the tax rates are extended in June. But if the voters reject the tax extensions, Zubiate said he could have to let go 20 teachers and one administrator.
“It just takes its toll on you as a principal to have to do this,” Zubiate said.
Class sizes at Fairfax High School will likely grow as a result of layoffs. Zubiate said he currently has 20 teachers on staff that teach five classes with more than 200 students. He said that workload could triple for those teachers, or that every teacher on staff will have to take on similar workloads.
“The thing I worry about is the teachers’ caseload,” Zubiate said. “It’s a very difficult situation for our teachers.”
Principal Jaime Morales is afraid the announcement will also affect the class sizes at Hollywood High School despite the fact they receive grant money from the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 (QEIA).
“The layoffs could put a strain on the QEIA grant money,” Morales said. “They are probably going to have to raise class sizes because that’s the only way they can lay off 7,000 teachers.”
The QEIA grant is given to schools in urban areas that have a low Academic Proficiency Index (API) score, which is determined by test scores along with other factors. Hollywood High School had a score in the 600s when they first received the grant and is now at 729. Morales said the grant mandated the shrinking of class sizes, with ninth grade classes limited to 20 students per class, while 11th and 12th grade classes were limited to 23 or 24 students per class. He added the layoffs almost guarantee those class sizes will have to expand.
LAUSD schools will have to send out layoff notices to 5,048 teachers by March 15, the majority of them employed in full-time positions. There will also be notices sent to 2,254 administrators, but a LAUSD spokesperson said that number included administrators who will likely be transferred to other schools. Final layoff decisions will be made in the summer after the outcome of the tax extensions is determined.
UTLA said they would negotiate with the LAUSD to save as many jobs as possible, but said the union would stay united to fight for a good educational environment for students.
“UTLA recognizes the severity of the education budget crisis and will negotiate with LAUSD on options to save jobs and offset the damage to student learning,” Duffy said. “But we will not stand by and allow our students’ educational program be dismantled. UTLA members stand united to fight all layoffs and to defend our students’ learning environment.”
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