In an example of its growing influence, the Los Angeles teachers union will have a say over the future assignment of 230 extra teachers mistakenly placed in schools to accommodate students bused from crowded neighborhoods, school and union officials said Tuesday.
Leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers-Los Angeles have agreed to jointly review the schools, most in the San Fernando Valley, that have extra teachers and decide how many will be transferred or retained, officials said.
"This says something about the position UTLA has come to hold in this district," UTLA President Helen Bernstein said. "We're not just some union there to bug them anymore."
Deputy Supt. Sidney A. Thompson called the arrangement a first and a significant milestone in the historically adversarial relationship between the school district and UTLA. Until now, personnel matters have been considered private decisions made strictly by district officials or the school board.
The board must still approve the recommendations of the joint panel, which will issue decisions next month.
The arrangement will temper the union's inclination to further criticize the district over the embarrassing hiring mistake, which has already cost taxpayers $2 million and could cost another $10 million, Bernstein said.
"Parents and teachers are furious and having our help will keep things a bit calmer," she said.
District and union officials predict that as many as 125 teachers will be transferred. The 89 schools affected were sent surveys on the issue this week and will be allowed to submit written arguments to the review panel stating why they should be allowed to keep their extra teachers.
For example, officials predict that some schools may argue to keep their extra teachers because a midyear change would require a complete reorganization of classroom assignments, which could be considered a hardship on students, district and union officials said.
The survey will be reviewed by the joint committee after the holidays, Thompson said. However, the school board could resist keeping significant numbers of extra teachers because money to pay them would be taken from other district programs, he said.
District officials in November had ordered 100 teachers removed from classrooms with fewer than expected numbers of students. The financially ailing district is paid by the state based on the number of students enrolled. Skyrocketing costs forced the school board this year to make $220 million in cuts to balance the district's nearly $4-billion budget.
Although the extra teachers are guaranteed their salaries through June, the district had sought to save money by using them as substitutes rather than paying part-time teachers to fill in on sick days.
But the transfer order raised protests from parents, children and union officials opposed to changes so late in the school year. Also, under their contract, teachers cannot be reassigned after the fourth week of school.
Bowing to pressure, the district reversed its decision and agreed to keep the teachers until the second semester begins, at an estimated cost of $2 million to $3 million. UTLA waived the contract provision on teacher transfers in exchange for the joint review process.
The extra teachers were hired this year to accommodate growing numbers of students who travel from crowded inner-city schools to those in the Valley, Westside and Harbor areas.