Lawsuit changes LAUSD teacher terminations

LOS ANGELES After hours of tense negotiations, there was a celebration at /*Los Angeles Unified School District*/ headquarters Tuesday afternoon for the /*American Civil Liberties Union*/ (ACLU), who had accused the district of discriminating against students.

"And the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer balance the budget on the backpacks of innocent children," said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel, ACLU of Southern California.

It was earlier this year the ACLU sued the district for disproportionately laying off teachers at three low-performing schools. They say about half the teachers at Samuel Gompers Middle School, John H. Liechty Middle School and Edwin Markham Middle School were laid off during last year's budget cuts, while many high-performing schools lost almost none.

"The kids have a lot of abandonment issues," said Sara Talley, a teacher. "About 70 percent of our students are foster or kinship care, so they're used to adults cycling through their life, and I think the impact of this was just another adult, which is a teacher, constantly being forced out."

But Tuesday, the school board agreed to a settlement to keep the effects of any future budget problems to a minimum at low-performing schools. Any teacher layoffs at those schools would be kept to the district average.

"This settlement ends," said Rosenbaum. "It ends disproportionate teacher layoffs, not only at these schools, the hard-to-staff schools, but at all schools throughout the Los Angeles district."

It is a victory for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had pushed for this lawsuit after adopting both Markham and Gompers under his Partnership for L.A. Schools program to help disadvantaged students.

The school board also decided Tuesday to shield 45 schools with the highest teacher-turnover rate from any budget-based layoffs in the future if they show academic improvement.

They also promised to give monetary incentives to teachers and principals if they continue to stay at those low-performing schools.

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