Published Online: February 25, 2010

L.A. School District Sued Over Teacher Layoffs

Civil rights groups sued the Los Angeles Unified School District and the state on Wednesday, claiming thousands of teacher layoffs will deprive inner-city children of their right to an education.

The budget-cutting dismissal of 2,100 permanent teachers last year disproportionately affected three schools in low-income and minority areas, violating the state constitutional right of students to an equal and proper education, according to the lawsuit.

The district could eliminate another 5,000 jobs during the 2010-2011 school year. The 650,000-student district, the nation's second largest, has seen its funding slashed as the state struggles to close a massive budget deficit.

Some inner-city middle and high schools in Los Angeles could lose up to 40 percent of their teachers in the upcoming cuts, according to an analysis by the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines declined comment on the lawsuit, citing a district policy that prohibits speaking about pending litigation.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and asks a judge to block any more budget-related layoffs at the three schools for the 2010-2011 school year. The lawsuit also wants to bar future layoffs that affect a higher percentage of teachers at those schools than at other district campuses.

Effectively, that could require the state to rescind its funding cutbacks.

"If the government can bail out bankers on Wall Street, they can bail out students in Watts and Pico Union," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, one plaintiff in the case.

While the layoffs are meant to be districtwide, state seniority rules mean the newest teachers go first. Many of them are in schools in tough, poverty-stricken neighborhoods that see a higher teacher turnover.

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