LAUSD plan to cut instructional days gets mixed reviews

One of the many local high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
One of the many local high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
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Teachers are giving mixed reviews to a cost-cutting proposal the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union announced during the weekend. The plan, still subject to approval by the union's rank and file, would shorten the current and following school year to help close a state funding deficit.

If United Teachers Los Angeles and other unions approve, the district’s 600,000 students will lose five days this academic year, and seven days next year.

Roosevelt High School English teacher Brendan Schallert said he prefers this option over a cut in his salary. "Yeah, if the people of California aren’t paying for an entire school year as we know it, they’re not going to get an entire school year."

Teachers will count the days cut from the year as unpaid days off. Union president A.J. Duffy called the agreement a “fair deal.” The district could still carry out layoffs. But for now, the deal will preserve 2,100 jobs for teachers and administrators, counselors, nurses and librarians.

Fairfax High School social studies teacher Mike Stryer said he’s happy about that. "On the other hand what I find totally discouraging is the fact that the district has not come forward and said, look in the spirit of shared sacrifice we are taking these financial steps to get our spending in control."

LA Unified superintendent Ramon Cortines has said he’s made significant cuts at the district’s central office.

Santee High history teacher Ron Gochez said he didn’t understand why his union agreed to what amounts to a pay reduction. He said he was ready to go on strike. "We didn’t take the fight to the district as much as we could have. And I have to attribute it to our union leadership or lack thereof."

L.A. Unified lawyers successfully blocked union leaders from carrying out a one-day strike last year to protest planned layoffs. Likely cuts in state funding are forcing the district to lop more than $600 million from next fiscal year’s budget.

Occidental College education researcher Ron Solorzano doubts that the administration got what it wanted."I think it was a lose-lose situation. I think the union could feel comforted that more jobs could be saved as a result of this compromise."

The district’s students are also losing out, said John Muir Middle School teacher Erika Coronado. She’s worried that the cut in instructional days, added to mandatory testing won’t allow her to address topics her students need to master. "In math we’re moving into beta-analysis, statistics, surveys and in science we’re moving into ecology and natural resources."

Coronado and other L.A. Unified teachers may express their opinions about the deal to cut instructional days in a binding vote that begins Wednesday of next week.