File: Teachers, parents and supporters rally as the Los Angeles Unified School District board meets to consider budget cuts and layoffs, which include adult education, preschool and elementary school arts programs, in Los Angeles on Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012.
The Los Angeles teachers union was back in court on Thursday appealing a settlement that exempts teachers in low-performing schools from being laid off based on seniority.
The case made against LAUSD by the ACLU and a partnership of school reform advocates was this: low-performing schools in high poverty areas, which are already difficult to staff, experience the brunt of teacher layoffs. Since so many teachers at low-income schools are junior teachers, they're the first to be targeted when firings start. The system has been accused of leaving students in highly unstable schools and, in the worst cases, without teachers in the classroom.
A judge agreed, exempting 45 of the district’s hardest-to-staff schools from the "last hired, first fired" rule back in 2011. But now, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) are appealing that decision. In a written statement, UTLA president Warren Fletcher said:
“The original ruling denied thousands of students the benefit of having experienced teachers in their classrooms. We appealed because the judge’s original ruling did not address the underlying issues that have created instability; high teacher turnover, and the prevailing inadequate and unsafe environment for learning. It does nothing to help provide a quality teacher in every classroom. It just moves around the pieces on a chess board and that’s not good for students or teachers.”
A lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, David Sapp, said he agrees with Fletcher that the settlement (which is now going into its second year) doesn’t get at the root of the problem. But, he argues, "teachers don’t have a constitutional right to seniority."
"It’s qualified, and where there are going to be constitutional violations, it’s appropriate to deviate from that seniority," he said.
A state appeals court has 90 days to decide whether or not the ruling will stand.