LAUSD Teachers Paid to Idle

LOS ANGELES -- As the nation's second-largest school district considers mass layoffs to deal with a budget deficit, it continues to pay about $10 million a year to about 160 instructors and others who are forbidden to enter a classroom.

The Los Angeles Unified School District employees earn salaries while misconduct complaints against them are reviewed.

Last month, the school board voted to lay off as many as 2,400 teachers and 2,000 other personnel to deal with a $596 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year.

Matthew Kim, a special education teacher, was removed from Grant High School in Van Nuys in 2002 amid allegations that he improperly touched female students. The board voted to fire him in 2003 but he has challenged the decision in both administrative hearings and court.

Seven years later, he earns up to $68,000 a year while, essentially, staying at home.

Kim cannot be given any actual work but he and others whose fitness is under review are "housed," or placed in district buildings where they remain during work hours.

Last week, however, Kim was told to continue the routine at home because the offices set aside for "housed" employees were becoming overcrowded.

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While Kim has been "housed" the longest, most cases take months, at least, to resolve.

Other California school districts assign work to staffers who are under misconduct review. In San Francisco, some workers are given clerical or warehouse work, said Jolie Wineroth, the district's senior executive director for human resources.

"I don't want to give anyone a free vacation," she said.

However, Los Angeles teachers are not assigned such work because it isn't listed under their duties in their union contract.

"Why would we denigrate (teachers) by forcing them to do something they're not supposed to do?" said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents nearly 48,000 teachers and other district workers.

District Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said the policy for "housed" employees should be changed.

"I don't believe they should just be sitting — that's taxpayer money," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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