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L.A. Unified board OKs layoff notices to about 9,000 employees.

March 11, 2009|Jason Song
  • L.A. Unified School District police watch union members who forced the school board to move its meeting to a side room. Officers ordered the group to disperse. About 50 district employees remained but none were arrested.
L.A. Unified School District police watch union members who forced the… (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles Board of Education approved issuing preliminary layoff notices to about 9,000 employees Tuesday despite a large demonstration by the teachers union and some board members' concerns over potential harm to educational quality.

In separate votes, the board approved sending letters to about 2,000 permanent elementary school teachers and about 3,500 probationary teachers informing them that they are in danger of losing their jobs.

The rest of the notices are going to non-teaching personnel, including counselors and administrators.

Before layoffs could occur in the nation's second-largest school system, the board would have to approve the terminations in June.

Board member Julie Korenstein voted against both measures, and Richard Vladovic voted against one and recused himself in the other. Marguerite Poindexter Lamotte also abstained from a vote.

Because of the state and national fiscal crises, the district is facing a nearly $700-million shortfall over the next 18 months.

District officials said they hope to avoid laying off all of the employees who will be given notice.

But Supt. Ramon C. Cortines cautioned that the district's deficit might grow. "If the revenue continues to be in the tank, we believe we will take another hit," he said.

Some board members said they were concerned that layoffs would harm the quality of student educations.

"You can't have a reduction in force of this magnitude and meet everyone's needs," Marlene Canter said.

Teachers union officials warned before the meeting that their members would perform an act of civil disobedience that could result in arrests. After protesting outside the board room, union President A.J. Duffy interrupted the meeting by speaking out of turn when it began.

"You know I'm not leaving the rostrum," he said as board President Monica Garcia admonished him.

"You are out of order," she said.

Union members, wearing red, sat in a semicircle around Duffy as the school board moved its meeting to a side room. Union members shouted "Shame on you!" and Korenstein, a strong union supporter, faced the crowd and put a hand over her heart before leaving the board room.

School district police ordered the group to disperse or face arrest. About 50 district employees who had been pre-screened by union officials remained behind, but police did not detain anyone.

The group remained in the board room, giving interviews to news media and discussing their concerns about larger class sizes and their students' education.

"This country we love was born out of civil disobedience," Duffy told the crowd.

The group left after nearly three hours to join another protest outside the building.

"We'll be back here to stop the cuts!" they shouted.

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jason.song@latimes.com

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