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Teacher Firing System Changed; Teachers Union Might Sue

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When firing teachers in the L.A. school system goes by strict seniority-based "last hired, first fired," that can disproportionately effect schools whose teaching bodies are made up of newer teachers. A new court settlement will violate strict seniority rules in firing in those cases, and the teachers unions are threatening to sue to protect seniority.

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Details from the L.A. Times on why the agreement was reached, and why United Teachers L.A. wasn't part of it. The settlement arose

between the Los Angeles Board of Education and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and other firms. They had sued the district over layoff procedures that effectively decimated the staffs of three schools serving low-income minority students....

Under the tentative settlement, no school would suffer disproportionate layoffs when budget cuts force staff reductions. The intent is to protect schools that rely heavily on less-experienced teachers from the massive employee turnover that has sometimes resulted from a strict "last hired, first fired" seniority system. Instead, the impact would be spread campus by campus with the exception of a group of up to 45 schools. Some schools, probably in more prosperous areas, would be harder hit by layoffs. And some experienced teachers could lose their job protections....

"The policy is disturbing and it's disturbing because we weren't involved in the process," said union President A.J. Duffy. "We should have been consulted and we weren't. There is a growing pattern within the district and the board majority to leave teachers out of the discussion and the debate."

Lawyers representing students in the original litigation contested Duffy's claim of exclusion. "The union voluntarily absented itself from the negotiations," said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California. "We called the union multiple times and encouraged them to participate. If they weren't in the room it's because they walked out and refused to come back in."

The Daily News has more on the case's history, and Mayor Villairaigosa's attitude toward the outcome:

Attorneys from Public Counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the firm Morrison & Foerster LLP sued LAUSD in February. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger, then issued an injunction in May blocking layoffs at the three schools [adversely affected by strict-seniority rules in layoffs, two of which were part of a Villaraigosa-controlled nonprofit]....

"Fundamentally, this lawsuit was about protecting some of our most vulnerable students in some of the city's most challenging schools," Villaraigosa said in a written statement.

"These kind of sweeping reforms are exactly what I had in mind when I created the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, and I am thrilled to see the Partnership has once again proved itself a catalyst for District-wide change."

Firing teachers in general in Los Angeles can be a legally fraught procedure, as City of Angles blogged about back in May 2009.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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