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LAUSD employees speak out about layoffs

April 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District who are set to be laid off spoke out Monday at a hearing about how the budget cuts are affecting students.

The district is facing a massive budget deficit and the loss of federal stimulus dollars, meaning thousands of jobs are on the line. However, the district says it is committed to keeping teachers in the classroom.

The LAUSD and the teachers union are going head to head over notices that would send thousands of teachers to the unemployment line.

Monday's Reduction in Force hearing was set to involve attorneys from the district and the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles. An administrative law judge will decide if the district followed policy when giving out the layoff notices.

"Morale obviously is very down since the March 15 pink slip distribution. It's a humiliating experience," said teacher Jennifer Preuss.

Meanwhile, the students are stuck in the middle of the battle.

"It's taking away the food for the mind. You can't cut from the inside out. It just doesn't make any sense," said Preuss.

More than 5,000 layoff notices were handed out to balance the brimming $400 million budget deficit, a solution that not everyone is willing to swallow.

"We talk about continuity, consistency, and these kids are going to get so many teachers, just like a revolving door," said teacher Anita Hawatin.

If the layoffs go through, it would mean students would see, among other things, an increase in class size. Many teachers say they are already at full capacity in the classroom.

"There's just no other place. I couldn't even imagine where I would put that many extra children," said another teacher.

Superintendent John Deasy says there is a way to save most of these jobs. He proposed a one-year emergency fix that includes 12 furlough days and borrowing a sum from a surplus. He said the plan would rescind 80 percent of the layoff notices for at least one year. However, he said the teachers union has yet to accept that offer.

"I think one year of employment is better than unemployment," Deasy said. "We need our teachers and we need our principals and our classified workers. We need our union to come to the table in partnership and save their membership."

The teachers union says other options need to be explored. Some said that they would be willing to take 12 furlough days if it meant they could keep their jobs.

If the layoff notices hold, thousands of teachers and school professionals will be let go effective June 30.