Decree To Reallocate Resources in L.A. Schools Approved
A California judge has given final approval to a consent decree to end a five-year-old school-finance case against the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Judge Ralph Nutter of the state superior court for Los Angeles County last month finalized the agreement, which will dramatically redistribute resources and experienced teachers throughout the nation's second-largest district.
"Through this decree, LAUSD is required to direct equal expenditures of its general funds for each student, no matter which school the student attends,'' said Carol K. Smith, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles who represented the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed by black and Hispanic parents in 1986, alleged that the district allocated fewer resources and tolerated more overcrowding in inner-city schools attended largely by minority and low-income students.
It also charged that inner-city schools were assigned the least-experienced and least-credentialed teachers as a result of district policies giving experienced teachers more leverage in choosing assignments. (See Education Week, Dec. 11, 1991.)
The consent decree requires the district to take experience and training into account in assigning teachers, beginning with the current school year. It gives the district until 1997-98 to equalize the distribution of experienced teachers, thus allowing it to use retirements and attrition to bring about some of the changes.
Schools that continue to have more than their share of inexperienced teachers after five years, and as a result spend less than the districtwide average on teacher salaries, must use their leftover funds to mitigate the effects of having less-experienced teachers.
The decree also gives the district five years to:
- Allocate basic resources for salaries and supplies among schools on an equal, per-pupil basis;
- Decentralize, in part by reorganizing large schools into separate decisionmaking units, or "schools within schools,'' with input from parents and staff members;
- Give each school broad discretion in determining how to spend the funds allocated to it for salaries and supplies; and
- Capture all available state funds to build new schools, the enrollments of which must stay within set limits to prevent overcrowding.
The court rejected arguments by a group of parents that the decree would unconstitutionally discriminate against white students.
Citing provisions in the decree calling for collective-bargaining
agreements to be followed, the judge likewise rejected arguments by the
United Teachers of Los Angeles, the teachers' union, that the decree
would violate the union's bargaining rights.