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LAUSD authorizes 5000+ layoff warnings

The LAUSD is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to issue layoff notices to 5,000 employees, including many teachers.

February 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Despite major cuts, the Los Angeles Unified School District is struggling with a $400-million deficit. That could mean thousands of employees, including teachers, getting laid off. The school board voted Tuesday downtown.

The Board voted to accept the budget by a vote of 5 to 2. That does not mean that they want to accept what the budget does. It is a legal measure that they had to take in order to notify many thousands of workers that they could be laid off.

LAUSD's proposed cuts -- deep, wide and painful -- have few options. The tentative budget is described as in full crisis.

More than 7,000 employees are on the chopping block, including more than 4,000 teachers. But the biggest worry is for the impact on students of all income levels.

"To get better jobs and better careers, we need to learn more English and we need the teachers," said English as Second Language student Walter Lam.

"The worst-case scenario is that our children will have to leave LAUSD. I don't know where they will go, honestly," said parent Lynn Alvarez.

Caught in a squeeze like never before, last year federal stimulus dollars allowed the district to hold on to 2,000 teachers. But there will not be that infusion this year.

There is hope that the state will put forward a school-funding initiative, but there is no assurance that it will pass, or even get on a June ballot.

What's more, school enrollment is shrinking. The district will be getting fewer federal education dollars.

Yet United Teachers Los Angeles says there must other ways to cut in order to make up for a $408-million budget gap.

"Dropout rates continue to go down, graduation rates continue to go up. Let's draw the line in the sand and say, 'No more cuts to the classroom, no more cuts to the school sites,'" said UTLA President A.J. Duffy.

Incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy joins many in blaming the state.

"As you know, we live in a state where we fund prisons at substantially higher amounts than we fund public schools," said Deasy. "It's borderline immoral."

By law the district must pass a realistic budget or face a takeover by the county, an entity that may choose even worse ways to make cuts.

"We've got to do with what we have, and we have to be fiscally responsible, and we have to follow the law, because I've got to tell you: If we all had our way, we would do it differently," said LAUSD board member Dr. Richard Vladovic.

Now all is in place for those layoff-warning notices to be sent out by March 15. United Teachers Los Angeles is urging parents to lobby legislators to get a school-funding initiative on the ballot.