Unions Will Not Negotiate: LA Unified Lays Off 5,000

According to today’s Education Week, the Los Angeles School Board has voted to lay off 5,000 employees including teachers and support staff.

While Los Angeles Unified is clearly overstaffed and losing enrollment and money, the extreme measures of laying off thousands of employees could be avoided if the unions would just negotiate less radical across the board reductions and short work furloughs.

Cortines said he held meetings with all the district’s unions over the past two weeks in a last-ditch effort to gain concessions that would reduce the number of layoffs, including furloughs, salary reductions, and freezes on raises, but no headway was made.

A.J. Duffy, president of teachers’ union United Teachers Los Angeles, said he does not support furloughs and salary reductions because “there is still plenty of fat in the LAUSD budget that should be cut, including millions spent on outside consultants.”

The union rules also guarantee that the neediest schools are always hit the hardest.

Many teachers who received layoff notices told the board that the inner-city schools are getting disproportionately hit because a majority of their staffs are new hires. State law mandates school districts make job reductions according to seniority.

Ray Cortines, the Superintendent of LA Unified, claims that these cuts are unavoidable because in the past the district has been adding new positions with declining enrollment. Cortines is in a bind, but the district has not looked seriously enough at cutting central office adults that do not work in schools. In both Baltimore and Oakland the budgeting philosophy has been that the money stays at the school level. These districts have forced the bloated central office staff to go back to the schools.

Both Baltimore and Oakland have used a student-based budgeting and weighted student formula-like budgeting reform to prioritize money following students into schools. They have restructured their districts to focus on schools rather than the central office. Therefore, school principals get much larger shares of the district’s operating budget and the schools are largely shielded from the impact of budget cuts. These districts prove that, large bureaucracies can change their priorities to focus resources on schools.

  • In Baltimore, for example, Superintendent Alonso, facing a similar budget deficit for the 2010 school year, has cut 489 jobs from the central office, redirecting 80 percent of the district’s operating budget to the schools.
  • Oakland’s strength is the budgeting discretion it provides to schools as it continues to move larger amounts of unrestricted funds and restricted funds to the school level. For example, even as Oakland Unified is forced to make significant budget cuts because of declining enrollment and California’s budget crisis, the majority of reductions were made at the central office, and the district worked to protect the unrestricted funding that goes to schools so that more than 87 percent of the unrestricted budget would go to schools in 2009-2010.