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Veteran L.A. substitute teachers losing work

L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines stands by a one-year deal made with the teachers union to give assignment preferences to laid-off instructors, including those with less seniority.

October 22, 2009|Howard Blume

Veteran substitute teachers, who have recently lost teaching assignments because of an effort to help laid-off full-time instructors, won't be getting the work back any time soon, Los Angeles school officials confirmed this week.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines stands by a one-year deal signed in July with teachers union President A.J. Duffy, according to a district statement. Under the pact, full-time teachers who were laid off have priority for random substitute assignments, even if that means passing over veteran substitute teachers with more seniority.

The arrangement to bypass teacher seniority only came to light when the district provided a copy of the agreement to The Times. The deal then created a firestorm within United Teachers Los Angeles, especially when veteran substitutes noticed that they were getting little or no work. Many subs rely on their district employment as primary income. They also get health benefits when they work at least 100 days a year and at least one day a month.

Because of the ongoing state budget crisis, the Los Angeles Unified School District on July 1 laid off about 2,000 full-time teachers who had not yet earned tenure. About 1,800 of them then signed up for sub work. On average, the district employs about 2,200 substitutes a day.

Duffy has defended the deal, saying that it provides an incentive for laid-off instructors, whom he called the "next generation of teachers," to remain with L.A. Unified until a possible rehiring. He said the deal also provided stability for students at schools hard hit by layoffs, although critics have said that the pink-slipped teachers would not necessarily be sent to their former schools.

Rank-and-file full-time teachers have largely sided with the substitutes, partly over concerns about any action that could undermine their own seniority protections. The union's governing body voted recently to terminate the deal, and Duffy, as a result, requested to renegotiate.

But the school district already has a signed contract and in a recent interview, Cortines said he wanted to leave things as they are.

"This was about how could you re-employ, in some form, as many of the teachers as possible that had received pink slips," Cortines said. "I had said months earlier I would do everything possible to employ them. The teachers union wanted me to hire them all back, and I could not guarantee that we had the money to do that. This was the second best I could do."

Leaders of the substitutes have vowed to keep pressing their case with the district and union.

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howard.blume@latimes.com

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