Sunday, March 20, 2011

Question for San Diego ACLU: 'Why Isn't That Happening Here?'

One possible explanation for ACLU's inaction in San Diego schools is ACLU attorney David Blair-Loy's fawning obsequiousness toward school attorneys. He seems to want to please them more than he wants to protect the rights of students and employees. At Fay Elementary School, 25 out of 27 teachers will get pink slips.

'Why Isn't That Happening Here?'
March 20, 2011
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

Class sizes will balloon all over the city if San Diego Unified goes ahead with plans to slash one out of every six teachers. But the blizzard of pink slips is hitting some of its poorest schools the hardest because the newest teachers are the first to lose their jobs — a phenomenon dubbed "last-in-first-out."

That has happened over and over in San Diego. Yet just two hours to the north in Los Angeles, the practice is being curbed.

Civil rights groups sued Los Angeles Unified and came to an unusual settlement: Schools with high turnover and low but growing scores will be spared when it hands out pink slips. That means that more senior teachers at less troubled schools will go onto the chopping block instead, upsetting the seniority-based system that drives layoffs at most public schools.

San Diego Unified hasn't followed the lead from Los Angeles, at least not yet. It hasn't taken any steps to dampen the impact of pink slips on poorer schools. And it hasn't had to grapple with a lawsuit pushing them to do so.

"Why isn't that happening here?" asked Fernando Hernandez, principal of Perkins, a K-8 school in Barrio Logan that could replace nearly a third of its teachers if layoffs go through. "I don't think it's fair."

The Los Angeles case has been greeted as a gamechanger, but school districts across the state fear it could be a legal minefield. Few are reluctant to pick new fights with their unions. School board President Richard Barrera said the solution is just to stop the layoffs entirely.

"Any solution other than that is going to put the district in court one way or another," Barrera said.

[Note to Barrera: Why not evaluate teachers effectively and fire the worst-performing teachers?]

The Los Angeles deal depends on wiggle room in California law: While schools are supposed to let go of their newest teachers first, they can skip over teachers who are highly needed or hold rare credentials. San Diego Unified is already doing that for a select group of science and special education teachers.

Districts can also deviate from last-in-first-out layoffs to ensure kids have equal rights under the state constitution. Civil rights groups argued in Los Angeles that students in schools that were battered by layoffs and already wracked by teacher turnover were unfairly deprived of their right to an education. They say the law already allows districts to skip over selected schools to protect them from layoffs.

"They shouldn't wait to be sued," said Catherine Lhamon, director of impact litigation for Public Counsel, one of the groups that sued Los Angeles Unified. "They can take that action today."

The case is still being appealed by the teachers union in Los Angeles, which argued it didn't address the root causes of turnover and called it irresponsible to send veteran teachers at other schools packing. But courts have agreed to let the school district go ahead and avoid layoffs at some of its neediest schools.

[Note to teachers union: wouldn't this be a perfect time to fire incompetent teachers? It's not fair to get rid of excellent new teachers while protecting floundering veteran teachers.]

In Los Angeles, attorneys pointed to the devastating effects on a select group of schools — something that San Diego Unified argues it would need to analyze before it could try to skip over specific schools or teachers for equity...

Layoff Déjà Vu for This Hard-Hit School
March 16, 2011
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

The same City Heights school that thought it could lose nearly all of its teachers three years ago is now threatened with losing nearly all of them again.

Fay Elementary, which used to be known as Jackson Elementary at another site, stood to lose 24 out of its 26 teachers when layoffs were threatened three years ago. The Union-Tribune wrote about its plight. It looked like it was going to be hit harder than many other schools because like many disadvantaged schools, it had a newer, younger staff — and the newest teachers are cut first.

Most of the teacher layoffs ended up being canceled. None of the Jackson teachers lost their jobs. But now Fay has an uncomfortable case of déjà vu.

Out of the 27 regular teachers at the school, 25 will get pink slips and another is a temporary teacher who had no guarantee of keeping his job anyway. That means only one teacher is slated to stay at the site. Most of them are the exact same teachers who were faced with losing their jobs last time.

The big numbers were a big surprise. As of Friday, Principal Eileen Moreno had handed out eight pink slips to warn teachers that they could be laid off. But after San Diego Unified ramped up the number of layoff warnings from just shy of 1,100 to more than 1,300, their numbers grew. The cuts are part of a plan to close an estimated $120 million deficit...

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