Nobel Middle School seventh-grader Alex Orozco, 12, whose parents are… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)
While parents held rallies up and down California on Tuesday to protest school budget cuts, the state's largest school district appealed to its teachers union to agree to take unpaid time off to help the district balance its books and save jobs.
"We're trying to hold the house together," said Los Angeles Board of Education member Richard Vladovic.
He and other district officials have noted that five other unions have agreed to six furlough days to help balance a nearly $408-million projected budget shortfall.
Earlier this year, the school board voted to send preliminary layoff notices to nearly 7,000 employees, including about 5,000 teachers.
At a Tuesday morning school board meeting, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and board members pressed the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to accept the six furlough days, which would save the district about $65 million. Union and district officials have been negotiating over budget cuts for weeks.
"We only ask our employees for what is necessary," Deasy said.
If the teachers union agrees, the board would be able to rescind about 3,200 teacher layoff notices, district officials said. And, Deasy said, school libraries would remain open, magnet coordinators would retain their jobs and a popular preschool program also would survive.
Teachers have agreed to furlough days, which are essentially a pay cut, in the last two years.
But union officials insist that the district should be able to balance its budget without firing any employees, saying that officials have overlooked potential sources of income and that revenue from Gov. Jerry Brown's latest proposed budget would allow the board to rescind all layoff notices.
"No [layoffs]. No cuts. No furloughs. That is our plan," union President A.J. Duffy said at an afternoon rally at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The protest was part of a series of gatherings throughout the state intended to call attention to education spending. At some rallies, dubbed "mamas in pajamas," parents attended in their pajamas and called for lawmakers to "wake up" and spend more on education.
The budget negotiations have contributed to a tense relationship between union and district officials.
During the board meeting, Duffy accused Deasy of negotiating through the media, something the superintendent denied. Deasy and union members also have been arguing over a new teacher evaluation system that would include standardized student test scores.
The union said it had not agreed to the program, which would have started on a voluntary basis next year, and filed a complaint in court to stop it.
During the rally, Duffy pointed out that Deasy has talked publicly and "tweeted" about his hopes that the union would agree to a deal — "it's Monday morning and I am still anxiously waiting to hear from UTLA to see if they are ready to save their membership," he posted on Twitter earlier this month.
After the crowd of several hundred teachers booed Deasy's name, Duffy asked: "Who the hell does he think he's talking to?"