LAUSD gives superintendent authority to lay off teachers

The L.A. Unified school board today gave its superintendent the authority to lay off more than 2,000 teachers in the face of massive state budget cuts. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Before the vote, AJ Duffy, the president of L.A. Unified's teachers union, urged administrators not to take this step.

AJ Duffy: You need to do whatever cuts you need to make away from the classroom and the school site.

Guzman-Lopez: Cutting consultant contracts and regional administrators would save hundreds of millions of dollars, Duffy said. He warned that the new probationary teachers, under the threat of layoffs, would leave the area... and the profession.

Board members didn't publicly discuss the layoff plans. They did grant Superintendent Ramon Cortines authority to let go up to 2,290 teachers, mostly in elementary schools. Board members Julie Korenstein and Richard Vladovic voted against the measure.

Cortines pledged to return to the board once he decided to carry out the layoffs.

Ramon Cortines: This is strictly a place holder that I am recommending. It is strictly precautionary. Mainly because I am trying to put the pressure on Sacramento to respond to not just this district, but districts across the state.

Guzman-Lopez: He said that lawmakers in Sacramento have taken too long to close the state's deficit, and that's shaking up school districts' education plans. If cuts are coming, Cortines said, lawmakers must remove restrictions on certain state education funds.

This year's L.A. Unified budget is more than $400 million leaner than the previous year's. Sacramento lawmakers are debating budget cuts that could force L.A. Unified to cut another $250 million from its current budget. Laying off the probationary teachers would save the school district up to $65 million.

During the same meeting, superintendent Cortines unveiled a "100 Day Plan" for the beginning of his three-year contract.

Cortines: We need to streamline the district. I will be bringing to the board of education, before March, a very lean plan for having a much smaller administrative staff at the central office.

Guzman-Lopez: Cortines talked of an all-hands-on-deck approach to improving education at L.A. Unified. With fewer teachers and larger class sizes likely, it and all the other public school districts facing state budget cuts will have to round up help from wherever they can find it.