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LAUSD board votes to possibly lay off 2,300 teachers

The 4-2 vote authorizes the job actions if no other options are found to decrease a potential $250-million budget shortfall this year caused by the state's financial problems.

January 14, 2009|Jason Song

Because of the state's budget uncertainty, the Los Angeles school board agreed Tuesday to potentially lay off up to 2,300 teachers if no other options become available this year.

The Los Angeles Unified School District faces up to a $250-million shortfall, and the move could shave about $50 million from that figure. But Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, in his first board meeting as head of the district, said he hoped not to send the notices.

"This is strictly a place-holder," he said. "I am still trying to find alternatives."

The board voted 4 to 2 for the option with members Julie Korenstein and Richard Vladovic voting against it. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Cortines also outlined his priorities for his first 100 days, saying that the board, district officials, parents and others need to work together to improve instruction, increase safety and stabilize the district.

But in the middle of all this, Cortines must deal with the worst budget crisis since the early 1990s.

District officials could send notices to 1,690 elementary school teachers and 600 high school and middle school instructors, which would result in a complicated process in which administrators would have to reschedule classes and more experienced teachers would bump younger instructors from their jobs.

Teachers with fewer than two years of experience would be at risk.

About 1,100 academic coaches and 400 administrators with teaching credentials could return to the classroom in that scenario, according to the district.

If teachers are laid off, they may have to return some of their pay to the district because of their salary schedule.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the union would fight any layoffs and warned the district to keep cuts out of the classroom.

But the normally animated Duffy also soberly acknowledged the severity of the situation. "This is truly one of the saddest days for this district," he said.

Cortines and other district officials outlined a grim financial picture for this and upcoming years and are asking state legislators to allow the district to use funds earmarked for certain programs, including class-size reduction, for general instruction.

"We need every flexibility available," said Chief Financial Officer Megan K. Reilly.

The district now receives about $200 million annually from the state for limiting some elementary school classes to 20 students. L.A. Unified officials have proposed increasing average class size by five students next year while keeping the state funding.

Elementary school class size could rise to more than 30 students, Cortines said. But he added that he believed it would be nearly impossible for students to learn in that environment. Cortines also said he would recommend to the board that it consider introducing a parcel tax that could be used for instruction, if approved by voters.

Before being named superintendent late last year, Cortines vowed to spend as little time in the boardroom as possible because he wanted to spend more time working on reforms and visiting schools. But he was present for the entire meeting, possibly because most of it focused on the budget.

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jason.song@latimes.com

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