Stop the layoff madness

April 2009 - 4,000 jobs still on the line. 4,000 teachers and health and human services professionals heading home each night to make dinner, take care of the kids, correct papers, try their best to get a full night's sleep-all the while worrying: Will I have a job next year? It doesn't have to be this way. LAUSD can stop the layoff madness.  

It's madness not to spend most of the federal stimulus money this year

LAUSD is receiving more than $850 million in federal stimulus money specifically designed by the Congress and the president to prevent imminent layoffs. In typical LAUSD fashion, the District is mismanaging the money. LAUSD officials want to spread the money over two years rather than using it all up front when it would save thousands of jobs. UTLA's forensic accountant confirms that there is enough money in the stimulus package to prevent all classroom layoffs for this year and possibly next if the money is used this year.

The money is targeted to save jobs for a simple reason: to keep people employed and to keep money pumping into the economy. There have been some hopeful signs that the U.S. economy is improving. We need to keep the momentum going right now-not put more working Americans on the unemployment line.

It's madness to keep eight local districts open while schools suffer

What matters more to student learning-a dedicated teacher, with a decent class size? Or a local District office building full of adults, far away from the classroom, trying to justify their jobs by mandating how, when, and what to teach? This financial crisis is the perfect opportunity to refashion the LAUSD bureaucracy into a conduit for supporting learning and sending resources to the classroom- not the current commandand- control mini-District model. This refashioning can start now, by closing local districts.

It's madness to increase class sizes LAUSD is a school district on the move.

Test scores are up across the board. That progress would be seriously endangered by huge class-size increases. And let's not forget who's responsible for the increases in student achievement. It's been accomplished by you, the hardworking teachers and health and human services professionals. Now LAUSD wants to turn around to thousands of you and say, "Sorry. Thanks for the good work, but here's your pink slip." That's not acceptable.

It's madness to lose thousands of new teachers

I've asked many of our teachers and health and human services professionals whose jobs are on the chopping block what they will do if they get laid off. Some say they'll look for work in other school districts. Others are considering a complete career change. Either way, LAUSD stands to lose their passion and dedication forever. The massive layoffs also send a terrible message to current college students. That message says: Choose any career but education.

It's madness to think a pay cut is the answer

LAUSD's latest ploy to take attention off its bad financial decisions is to say that employee "furlough" days are the only answer. You have reached out to me on both sides of the issue, some saying we should consider it, while others are adamantly opposed. My firm belief is that UTLA members should not consider agreeing to a pay cut as long as LAUSD has other options. It's too easy for LAUSD officials to ask teachers to make a sacrifice- they are relying on the inherent good will of our members instead of doing the tough work of reining in the bureaucracy.

It seems like every month there is another spending scandal in LAUSD. The latest revelation is that LAUSD could have saved $77 million by using District personnel instead of outside contractors for its building program.

While facilities money can't be used to save jobs, this profligate spending is indicative of the waste that permeates every corner of the District-and the LAUSD culture that lets it happen. If it's happening there, it's happening in other places too. How many millions of dollars are spent on ineffective professional development contracts? How many administrators work at each local District, and what do they do? How many consultants has the District hired, for how much, and what does each one do? What does the District spend on leases for office space? How much does LAUSD spend on outside lawyers, particularly those assigned to special ed issues? (My sources say that millions are spent on battles to deny services to students, only for the cases to be settled out of court.) How much does the District spend on Periodic Assessments and other unnecessary testing? There is a maddening lack of transparency to the District's finances, and until the picture is clear, you and your families should not have to sacrifice to protect LAUSD's misguided spending priorities.

Some School Board members and LAUSD officials are making an attempt to divide us by creating artificial issues. They say we all have to share the pain. They say seniority is at fault. Don't be misled by these distraction tactics. The plain fact of the matter is that teachers and health and human services professionals sacrifice all the time. It's the bureaucracy's turn to sacrifice.

UTLA is fighting for every teacher, every counselor, every health and human services professional-every job that's on the line. Our voice, speaking out together, with the unity of 48,000 members, is the strongest weapon we have to fight the layoff madness.