Major developments in LAUSD layoff case

I haven’t written about this case in the context of our own layoffs here in San Francisco, but education policy wonks around the state have been closely watching a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Los Angeles Unified School District; the case alleges that the disproportionate impact of layoffs at three LAUSD middle schools violates the civil rights of low income students and students of color who make up the enrollment at those schools.

Late this afternoon, the judge in the case issued a preliminary injunction blocking the layoffs.  Potentially, this injunction could have a major impact, since there is already a statewide conversation going on over the impact of seniority in widespread layoffs. California school districts could lay off as many as 26,000 teachers this year — we have little choice after years of cuts to education funding, and no relief in sight.  Since state law requires school district to lay teachers off in order of seniority, hard-to-staff schools filled with less senior teachers are disproportionately affected.

I think it’s misguided to gut seniority policies wholesale — some of the current rhetoric around the country smacks more of union-busting than educational reform — but I would support changes to the Education Code allowing school districts to negotiate protections for fragile school communities that would otherwise be decimated by seniority-based layoffs.

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6 responses to “Major developments in LAUSD layoff case

  1. SFMomma,

    My comment was not at all directed at you in any way.

    I’m having trouble explaining myself coherently but I’d be happy to discuss this with you offline – feel free to call my school (El Dorado!) and ask for me.

  2. Jennifer,

    You, not I, framed this debate as pro or anti union. I simply said: why use ONLY seniority to decide who gets let go? Seems a valid question – and we certainly all know someone terrific that is being let go while someone who needs to find a new career will stay on.

    I assume you are a teacher, correct? Why not ask UESF to help in creating stronger and more balanced schools to support newer teachers and provide growth for more senior teachers -at EVERY school? Where is UESF in being part of the solution? They certainly are great at pointing out the problems.

    I’ll fall on a sword for most of my kids’ teachers, but don’t see UESF fighting for the right things for kids – only for the adults.

    I don’t hear UESF walk the talk when it comes to creati

  3. I agree with SFMomma – basing a person’s job status solely on when they were hired is wrong. We have a teacher at our school who has been getting pink slips every year for 4 years, solely because she’ s been teaching in SFUSD for 4 years, not because she has bad performance.

    Why can’t teachers who are recognized by their peers as being inadequate be the first ones to be let go? Why can’t we have more equity in balancing the number of teachers from any school that can receive pink slips, regardless of seniority? Just as SSCs are having to prioritize, why can’t Administrators have to make the hard choices of who in their school receives pink slips based on their performance, not based on when they were hired?

    To remove teachers from a school and replace them with other, more “senior” teachers changes the dynamic at the school. Especially if they are replaced by former teachers who chose to become administrators instead.

    This and the SEIU’s replacing of school secretaries with union members with more seniority who got laid off from the city is making unions look like the ones who are fighting the wrong fight. I understand that with seniority you should have some benefits, but this is getting ridiculous.

    If you only get job security based on when you are hired and not your performance, what is the incentive to do well?

  4. Shouldn’t we look at hiring? At how we staff schools? If we change the way teachers are assigned to schools, so that no school is disproportionately staffed by new teachers, then this issue disappears. Seniority is great, but it should be distributed evenly across all schools — for the benefit of the students AND staff.

  5. You know, the ACLU didn’t originally sue UTLA because this case isn’t really about seniority. The brief, which is short and not in legalese, makes the case very clear: LAUSD had plenty of bumped teachers placed at these schools, but the placements were either declined or the teachers quit.

    The staffing problem is that these newer teachers often have been placed through a process in which they actively sought to work at a high-needs school and they want to stay there. There is no debate over whether the nature of the work is different at high-needs schools: it is.

    Reducing these issues to seniority and framing the debate as pro- and anti- union is reductive (and unproductive). Many firm supporters of unionism and seniority – like me – look at the data and notice something’s very wrong, and that its effects nuture institutional racism in our schools.

  6. You say: “I think it’s misguided to gut seniority policies wholesale.”

    Another way to look at it (and to paraphrase you): it IS misguided to to have wholesale policy that ONLY uses seniority as the single factor for teacher layoffs.

    It’s time for this to go for all the reasons that the ACLU is taking on. In a state with so many underperforming schools, we have to get past this 19th century logic that a work start date is the only basis for keeping employees of any kind.

    I’m pained that some of our best, most talented and enthusiastic teachers are being pink slipped while some of the worst teachers I’ve experienced in public schools will come back to haunt another group of students. The latter group is certainly a small fraction of what is out there – but they are indeed there.

    If it takes a lawsuit, so be it. The lawsuit is about kids, not adults.