LAUSD Delays Decision on Layoffs

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education was scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to approve the layoffs of about 8,540 employees, including more than 3,500 teachers.

Late Tuesday afternoon, officials announced the decision was delayed.

Meanwhile, the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education has voted to rescind layoff warnings sent to more than two dozen teachers about a month ago.

Los Angeles school board members said they want more information about the potential impact of the federal economic stimulus package on the district and other possible alternatives to job cuts. Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he will conduct a series of meetings with his staff and representatives of employee unions, then return to the board on April 14 -- possibly with the same recommendation.

"I still have just a page here of unanswered questions," board member Tamar Galatzan said. "... I don't feel comfortable making these decisions in a vacuum."

The layoffs have been the cause of debate and protest for weeks as the district struggles to eliminate a budget deficit of around $700 million. With personnel costs accounting for up to 84 percent of the district's overall budget, district budget officials said cutting jobs is essential to getting the LAUSD out of the red.

Cortines said he was recommending deep cuts in the district's central office and local districts in an effort to limit the impact on the classroom.

But under the proposal going to the board Tuesday, 1,940 elementary school teachers would be laid off, along with 1,541 secondary school teachers, 90 special education teachers and 115 elementary and secondary administrators. Also on the chopping block are 177 school counselors and 217 instructional specialists.

The district's central office would be reduced by 1,028 positions, local school districts would lose 212 and about 1,700 clerical, custodian, cafeteria workers and other classified positions would be eliminated.

Cortines told the board last week that the cuts would be difficult for the district to handle.

"Adults in this building will suffer -- over a thousand of them," he said, referring to the district's headquarters. "People in the local districts will suffer. Indeed, schools will suffer.

"... I'm not saying it has to be all my way, but you do have to look at every area," he said. "There are services I am looking at eliminating in this district that are not in the best interests of our students and our employees, but I know of no other way to balance the budget."

Officials with the various district employee unions -- most notably United Teachers Los Angeles -- have blasted the proposed layoffs, saying the district had sufficient fat in its budget that could be eliminated before firing teachers and increasing class sizes.

Cortines had originally recommended about 8,800 layoffs, but an infusion of cash from the federal economic stimulus package led district officials to slightly reduce the number of anticipated cuts.

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