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LAUSD Teacher Layoffs: Pink Slips and Bad Math

March 25th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

teacher-pink-slips.gif


When I teach at either USC or UC Irvine,
class size is a big deal. In the workshops I teach at Irvine, my class size varies between 15 and 20 students, depending upon how many other workshops are offered at any given time. (When there are more workshops, we can spread the students out.)

The difference between teaching 15 students
in a workshop setting, and teaching 20 …. is huge. Fifteen is fine. Good actually. With just five more, I have to run every class with an egg timer right beside me, meaning each student gets a ridgedly controlled amount of time to get his project critiqued in class—even if he or she needs more. And I simply can’t fit in many of the things that I am able to teach when the class is smaller.

Even the difference between 18 students and 20, is a big deal.
It may sound crazy but, I know this from experience. We all agree that 12 is the ideal number of students in these workshops. But 15 is okay. Any more than that, and the students suffer measurably.

I bring up the issue because of the because of the news about the newest totals of teacher pink slips
that came out of yesterday’s meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

At the meeting, superintendent Ray Cortines laid out the cuts he proposes to make in the LAUSD budget—now that he’s figured it what the district will get from the stimulous package. They include 8400 staff layoffs, 4700 of those layoffs are teachers.

According to Cortines and his office,
the teacher layoffs will change student-to-teacher ratio in the classroom in the following way:

In elementary school, which will be hardest hit by the cutbacks,
the ratio for kindergarten through third grade would go from 20 to 1 to 24 to 1.

In middle schools, the ratio would change from 36 to 1 to 38 to 1
in middle school. In some high schools, it will be a change from 40 to 1, to 42 to 1.

The class size reductions down to 20 students per teacher that were mandated for 9th grade math and English classes—the two subjects that students most need to master in order to graduate—will evaporate.

If adding five more students is such a big deal in my classes
—and I teach college seniors—what kind of difference will it make for first graders? Or third graders?

Plus, I’ve observed that LAUSD doesn’t keep to its stated numbers anyway.
When the district says 40 in a classroom, the real number is often 45 or, as in the case of one ESL class I saw listed at Jefferson High School, a jaw-dropping 56. (That can’t be legal, right?)

We all understand that the district must make draconian cuts
given our present economic situation. But student teacher ratio must be last on the chopping block.

And when i say last, I mean, that we cannot let it happen.

Posted in Education, LAUSD | 45 Comments »

45 Responses

  1. Joe Says:

    That’s a really sad state of affairs for LAUSD. There has to be a better way to cope with lack of funding.

  2. Woody Says:

    In response to this comment from the last post….

    Clay, a “profession” isn’t represented by a union. And, how many “education” classes were you required to take in which you sat on the floor in a circle and petended to be relevant? That was a big help, huh?

    My kids need to know what the low end of a rubric looks like.

    Tell them to sit straight and look forward. At my university, the students in the School of Education had the lowest SAT scores–even worse than those studying psychology and journalism!

    H.L. Mencken on goverment schools:

    “The erroneous assumption is to the effort that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence …. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such montebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

    - – -

    Problems with schools aren’t due to lack funding. If so, the increases in funding through huge tax increases over the decades would have resulted in the best schools in the world. Try cutting out waste and useless programs.

    For instance, our Board of Education built a $7 million grammar school because it was so necessary. You’ll never guess, but the school was completed and instantly boarded up because it was not needed. Oops. A little mistake on projections there. I guess education experts should have taken a few business classes.

    BTW, I regularly taught post-graduate classes of up to 80-90 students, and I didn’t whine.

    If you want to save money without cutting teachers in L.A., throw out all of those illegal immigrants eating up your space and budgets. Isn’t that really the biggest problem? Now, because of them, the kids of legal citizens might suffer from less attention. When the illegals complain and say that you can’t throw them out, just respond with “Sí, se puede!”

  3. reg Says:

    I love being lectured on education by a classic Know-Nothing (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_Nothing ) who all but admits he’s culturally illiterate, would rather watch football on TV than read books and claims to have gotten through school doing papers on “Classics Illustrated” and Cliff Notes. And, of course, who isn’t even competent to discuss problems withiin his supposed area of “expertise” in a blog comments thread.

    Very funny stuff.

  4. Woody Says:

    reg, reg, reg…you try so hard to be an elitist, while I do the things that I enjoy. Plus, you pretend to understand issues about which you really have no clue and claim that I don’t know anything about a field in which I’ve made a living and given many lectures to graduate students and fellow professionals. Your life must be miserable. Try to get that chip off of your shoulder. To help get the demons out of your soul, may I suggest that you start studying the Bible?

  5. reg Says:

    You’re running on empty.

  6. Woody Says:

    Horace Greeley: “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”

  7. Woody Says:

    reg, the only person running on empty is you, whose only arguments are to spew personal attacks. At least I gave you advice.

    And, oh, I still got a A in World Lit despite reading several chapters of War and Peace from Cliff’s Notes. It was a matter of time and priorities, and my life hasn’t suffered a bit from it. How did you do in your college World Lit class?

  8. Woody Says:

    Here, reg, you can start with this so that you don’t have to tax your brain. LINK

  9. Woody Says:

    On second thought, maybe that’s too hard. Try this one. LINK

  10. Lee B. Ral Says:

    Yes. Ship the illegals back across the border, and your teachers will have jobs, and your class sizes will be manageable.

    This may just be the catalyst to bring the teachers’ unions back from the dark side.

    Or, you can stay the current course, and you’ll have 100 students in your classrooms in a generation.

  11. reg Says:

    When I link to something this crazy – “This column will explain why The New York Times has probably killed more people than Hitler” – in a discussion of the NYTs, as our resident moron did the other day at Cooper’s blog, I’ll be happy to have my intellectual credentials challenged. As it stands, we have a desperate little cracker with the intellect and morals of a slug using these threads to grab attention, apparently to keep his fragile ego in repair. It’s embarrassing and – unfortunately and apparently intentionally because it’s so persistent and pedictable – derails informed discussion.

  12. Woody Says:

    Gosh, reg. That article was written by a professor at the Wharton School. It was a message by an educated person for other educated people, which is why you didn’t understand it. Maybe you should have read beyond the first sentence to have any chance of understanding.

    You seem to want to bring your petty arguments back and forth between here and Cooper’s. Are you trying to build some acceptance from others that you can’t get at another place where people have read the entire thread?

    Well, why you didn’t have the guts to provide a link for others to get the full truth, I will: http://marccooper.com/dont-mourn-publish/#comments

    Your inferiority complex is getting worse with every hour. Quit comparing yourself to me and it might make it easier on you.

  13. reg Says:

    MY inferiority complex ? The sad thing is, Woody, that while your desperation for attention, your petty prejudices and constant jabbing at others who expose your perennial failings at even a modicum of persuasive argument suggests that some such problem is eating away at you, you’re not suffering from a complex. You have demonstrated that you actually are inferior.

  14. reg Says:

    Incidentally, you little jerk – I’ll go you one better and provide a real link to the crackpot article you cited so people can see – once more – how nutty you and your “sources” are:

    http://tinyurl.com/d3gzme

    You’re so chickenshit you just linked to a thread your original article link was buried in and have the audacity to accuse me of “not having the guts” to link it? Bullshit. Now folks can see just how lunatic you – and your Wharton professor – are.

  15. Woody Says:

    Well, reg, the article didn’t stand on its own for my presentation. One should look at the context in which it was offered, attacked, and defended, which is why I linked to the entire thread.

    You know, you are quite insane.

  16. Woody Says:

    reg, out of respect for Celeste, why don’t you give it a rest with your personal and off-topic attacks? It’s pretty boring and quite infantile on your part. If you don’t have a pacifier, I’m sure that you can find something else to suck on.

  17. reg Says:

    “you are quite insane…”

    “out of respect for Celeste, why don’t you give it a rest…”

    The irony is stunning…

  18. Woody Says:

    Hey, I don’t start these conversations with you. Quit reading my comments if you can’t control your emotional outbursts.

  19. reg Says:

    “Hey, I don’t start these conversations with you.”

    Do I need to direct attention back to the thread that started out with you posting two racist comments directed at my wife. You’re a sick little jerk – and whiny as they come.

  20. Woody Says:

    For the childrennnnnnnn…….?

    Seniority, not quality, counts most at United Teachers Los Angeles

    …layoff notices just went out to 5,500 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified schools, and the UTLA contract guarantees one thing: Those notices aren’t going to the least effective teachers. Quality has nothing to do with it.

    It’s all about seniority.

    …what union President A.J. Duffy won’t admit, as he raises a stink, is that when good teachers are on the chopping block and burned-out teachers are protected, it’s because of his union’s contract.

    Simply put, the UTLA contract — like a lot of others in the state — requires that the last hired are the first fired.

    …Steve Barr, Green Dot founder, is no fan of UTLA.

    He says the union has two primary purposes that have nothing to do with educating children: preserving prohibitively expensive lifetime benefits for teachers and their families, and allowing more senior teachers to work where they want rather than where they’re needed, with tenure making even the burnouts untouchable.

    …In the Green Dot contract, the section on layoffs is six lines long (versus four pages in the UTLA contract).

    If necessary, Green Dot takes into account a teacher’s evaluations and expertise. Only if there are no differences on those things does seniority come into play.

    …”Our kids get report cards,” Haleblian (a parent) said. “Maybe our teachers could get report cards.”

    That’s essentially what President Obama said last week when he condemned decades of failure in American public education and called for major reforms.

    Rubisa (a teacher) said he went to his union rep and suggested that teachers give back some of their sick days to help balance the budget and avoid some layoffs.

    “The union rep said we should not balance the budget on teachers’ backs,” Rubisa said.

    And, some people call teaching a “profession?” Professionals don’t need union contracts to protect lesser qualified workers.

    Besides throwing out the illegals, throw out the union.

  21. Woody Says:

    Notice, reg, that I’m back on topic and not whining about your attack on my wife and all of those on me. Maybe you should find out what this post is about and discuss that.

    You are one sick psycho.

  22. teacherman Says:

    I’m a teacher, and I think the biggest problem are the students who are not “illegal” but the students who might be 2nd or 3rd generation. They have become lazy and not intellectually curious about anything. They are more interested in anything but school. It’s “Raider Nation” that I see as the problem. As for “professions” not being unionized,what about police officers, fire fighters and all professional athletes being represented by unions, to name but a few?

    And for low SAT scores in the education department students, maybe you should have gone to a better school.

  23. John Moore Says:

    @teacherman raises an issue I’d like Celeste to comment on: it appears that the children of immigrants (at least Hispanic immigrants) too often go to the dark side – even though their parents have decent values.

    Here in Phoenix we have a very large Mexican population, with lots of illegals who have legal children. The illegals don’t seem to get in trouble any more than anyone else, but the Hispanic youth gangs have turned large parts of the area into battle zones.

    Celeste, you have been involved with the gangs. Can you shed light on this? Maybe a whole blog post on your take on the problem?

  24. John Moore Says:

    @teacherman,

    In general, ed schools have long been where the poorest students went. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bright students too, but the general campus vibe – at lots of campuses – is that the ed schools are for dummies. It has also been my experience that ed professors are way sub-standard. The Ed PhD’s I’ve known have been far less intelligent than most other PhD’s.

    My mother, a mathematician and engineer, decided to become a teacher after her kids reached middle school age. She went to three different ed schools (we moved states in the middle) and was constantly disgusted at the idiocy taught, the idiots teaching, and the idiots learning. She had many of the same observations during her 20 subsequent years as a junior high school algebra teacher, and quit in disgust as soon as she reached retirement.

    When her first grandchild was born, she made a family rule (the only one she even insisted on): none of her grand-kids would go to public school (even though she had, my father had, and my brother and I did). She backed it up with the money to pay for private school for all grand-children.

  25. Woody Says:

    teacherman, the police and firemen are respected, so I wouldn’t say anything to diminish their roles. However, below is the definition of profession. The first one listed is the traditional definition, and the other two have been added because of current and expanded usage of the term.

    Profession – a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation b: a principal calling, vocation, or employment c: the whole body of persons engaged in a calling.

    Further, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants have a governing body, ethics, standards, licensing, etc.

    Within historical context, professionals are not unionized. However, society has expanded the term to include just about anyone, so as to make everyone feel equal and good about themselves. We have professional waste collectore. But, teachers have become just another set of government employees through its unionization, putting themselves above their customers — families.

    But, that’s nothing to the word changes that we’re starting to see from Obama’s administration. “1984″ got here late.

  26. reg Says:

    “accountants have a governing body, ethics, standards, licensing, etc.”

    And these strict ethics and standards, of course, have kept financial corporations from bamboozling shareholders, potential investors and the public by constructing phony financial instruments, over-leveraging and cooking ratings of their investment instruments because highly professional accountants are ON THE JOB keeping an eye on everythiing !!!!

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accounting_scandals

  27. reg Says:

    Here’s a real-world discussion of how so-called “professional standards” can become corrupted:

    http://tinyurl.com/ysrws2

  28. Woody Says:

    reg, do you need attention that badly? Can you not stick to the subject for two minutes? If you really have a job, despite how little it must pay, then why don’t you do it and quit boring us with your feigned understanding of financial issues with inaccurte assessed blame and your personal attacks due to your inferiority complex and psychotic illusions?

    - – -

    Now, onto the subject….

    How can California keep more teachers?

    California’s Hefty Union Dues

    Jobs are fleeing the Golden State, where unemployment has spiked well above 10%. Taxes are soaring, and a new budget shortfall of $8 billion, following the $42 billion gap that was patched up earlier this year, could hike them even more.

    But California is still not a bad place to be — that is, as long as you have a secure job (which most are) on the public payroll.

    According to the latest salary survey by the American Federation of Teachers, California teachers are the highest paid in the nation.

    California also has America’s highest-paid prison guards. A state agency’s study last year found that the maximum pay of California’s guards was 40% higher than that of the highest-paid guards in 10 other states and the federal government.

    Meanwhile, California’s public schools have middling results at best. Its prison system is chronically overcrowded, with a hospital system so inadequate that a federal judge has ruled it in violation of constitutional rights.

    Private-sector workers and business owners in California get the worst of all deals. They pay some of the highest taxes in the country and get no more than mediocre public services.

    It’s not just the unions that have pulled the state into the ditch. Voters share the blame for ill-advised decisions at the ballot box, such as approving too much debt and imposing budget rules that keep tax revenues from going where they are needed most. But public-union muscle has undeniably led the way in tilting the balance of power toward a self-serving, unaccountable governing class.

    …The labor movement of old was dominated by private-sector unions that, out of necessity, shared some common interests with management. They knew that if they got too greedy, they would put their employers out of business and destroy their members’ jobs. (Knowing the risk was not always enough to keep the worst from happening, as in steel and autos.)

    Public-sector unions are less afraid of killing the goose with the golden eggs because the goose is government and it really does look immortal.

    …So the public should be forewarned. California government is a test case for what might happen far more broadly if unions get their way in Congress.

    If California teachers want to be professional and keep their jobs, then decertify the union and take a pay cut so that no teachers have to be terminated.

  29. reg Says:

    One more comments thread buried under the narcissism and “Hey, Look at me!” stupidity of the resident troll. I guess cheap TurboTax software has made things slow for this boring, bean-counting drudge in the weeks before April 15.

  30. reg Says:

    Incidentally, if anyone is wondering what Woody would be like if he wasn’t filled with racist bile, compulsive parroting of rightwing drivel, peddling bizarre disinformation and engaged in desperate and reckless ad hominem, the miracle of modern technology has the answer:

    http://tinyurl.com/dxt624

  31. Woody Says:

    reg, your last two comments are very typical of you and give definition to the term “troll” — plus, you miserably failed at your attempt at humor, like you fail in life. Are you still working on that inferiority complex?

    Here’s your sign…..
    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=5dj6np&s=5

  32. Woody Says:

    BTW, you can’t bring yourself up by bringing other people down, despite what Obama tells you.

  33. reg Says:

    Total fool…racist trash reaching for the gutter. Unbelievably, that’s apparently a step up for our resident troll.

  34. Celeste Fremon Says:

    John, that’s a very good question, and the answer is so, so complicated I’m not sure I can handle it in a blog post. But let me think on it.

    Woody, I agree with Lopez on this. Thanks for linking. The fact that seniority not merit calls the shots on this is….beyond galling. It’s putting the grown-ups first, the kids last.

  35. John Moore Says:

    tks, Celeste. Looking forward to it.

  36. Woody Says:

    resident troll…? reg, is projecting, again.

  37. reg Says:

    Celeste – do you really think that seniority should be thrown out the window ? I will admit that there are issues of quality control and performance that teachers unions are loathe to address, but god forbid that older teachers be thrown into the dust heap in an effort to “churn and burn” younger folks. Don’t fall for the rightwing “concern” on this, because it’s borne of contempt for union. That may not describe Lopez – all I know about the man is what I see on 60 minutes, although these city columnists are, IMHO, generally purveyors of very lame “conventional wisdom” – but it certainly describes Resident Troll. I’ve been critical of teachers unions and I think we need some reforms – like Obama is proposing – but let’s not throw teachers and their unions under the bus. It’s a cheap shot and when all is said and done, will work against a united effort at improving the schools. We need folks of good will to work together. That doesn’t include rightwing nutcases who have the same masturbatory answer to every difficult question.

  38. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Reg, I think that seniority should be a factor, but only one of a number. Right now it’s the only factor.

    Sometimes Steve Lopez gets on my last nerve, but I too want to know the answer to the question below, even though I understand that trying to reward excellence puts the judgment in the eye of the beholder, which can be dicey.

    “Every school has teachers who stand above the rest. Some of them veterans, some of them not. Why can’t they be rewarded?”

    Seriously. Why not?

  39. reg Says:

    Honestly, as long as there is a process in place – an effective process – that weeds out teachers who are demonstrably performing poorly, I think that seniority should be kept in place at the level of retention. Without that degree of job security, who the hell would go into teaching ? I also think that there should be performance pay and other incentives that advance the fortunes of high-performing teachers – but assuming a teacher is performing according to established standards, I can’t see superceding seniority as anything but a formula for “churn and burn.”

  40. reg Says:

    One of the key pragmatic reasons, incidentally, why not respecting seniority is a bad idea is because that’s such an affront to teacher’s that it would poison any school reform package. Unless teachers unions are part of the process, it’s futile.

  41. EMR Says:

    Another really bad LAUSD move…..all the math coaches in the district were told their contracts were done by June 30, and they would be considered displaced teachers. Additionally, LAUSD would have job fairs for them to find new positions.

    Concurrently, Cortines laid off thousands of teachers.

    The math coaches had no fear that they would have a position – UNTIL, Cortines called back ALL of the RIF’d math and science teachers. Now there aren’t enough math positions for the coaches, and many do not have return rights back to the school they came from.

    Imagine that!

  42. Bookwurm Says:

    Unfortunately, I am a former full-time teacher, now reduced to day-to-day sub because of LAUSD’s bloated spending practices. After 8 years of post high school undergrad and graduate studies, having taken every test the state could throw at me (CBEST, CSET, RICA), and putting up with often sub-standard conditions on a daily basis in my classroom, I have been given a swift kick in the ass by Monica Garcia, Cortines, and the rest of his henchmen.
    Then of course, we have all the new schools, that by the way look like prisons, going up. Who are they going to get to fill those schools? Is Cortines and his cronies going to come down from Beaudry (Mt. Doom) and teach? I don’t think so.
    Cortines and his band of baboons don’t care about the children of Los Angeles, or their parents, and they certainly don’t give a you know what about teachers. As a matter of fact, they’re waging war against us.

  43. twenty-two years Says:

    This thread is dead but I have the time…

    I am a ‘housed’ LAUSD teacher since May 2009. Please don’t tell the tax payers (Hey! I’m one!) that I sit in a LAUSD District office everyday doing whatever I choose, hence my stumbling in here.
    I am paid like I always was and still accrue my benefits.

    LAUSD only recently told me why I am here and now I move to the next step of being reviewed by “Employee Relations” whom I understand is a few people downtown who meet irregularly.
    I was a nose-to-the-grindstone teacher who has grown lazy and actually enjoys this – because I have no other choice.

  44. Rolando Torres Says:

    If 50% of the LAUSD teachers would come together at each campus, they could break off and become charter schools. Charter schools are SOOOO much better. LAUSD has its tentacles tightly wrapped around the student treasure chest and they have no intention of letting it go. They are more concerned with their benefits then they are about providing quality education for the children. It’s sad but when money is a factor, everything else is secondary. Teachers get better benefits than students get an education. LAUSD has so much property throughout LA that is used for non-student activities like storage, food processing, maintenance, carpentry, etc. These would be great Charter school campuses and these services could be provided for less if private contractors were able to bid on the work. Not to mention the savings of letting go of overpaid maintenance workers. The bottom line is that the kids future is in serious jeopardy and the ones who hold the key have no intentions of letting go. Is it any wonder that all the Charter schools are setting up in affluent neighborhoods and are leaving all of LAUSD junk to the minorities?

  45. Deirdre Says:

    You had mentioned in your article that next year the ratio of teacher to students in kinder would become 24 to one….well, that is what we have this year in lausd. We already have 24 students, with NO aide. Next year it will become 29 students in K-3 to one adult certificated teacher with NO AIDE. What kind of education will these children get, and who has the physical energy and fortitude to teach well under these circumstances. It is a crime the way LAUSD wastes their money, and allow these teacher layoffs, which will affect so many innocent lives. There is no stimulus money this year to stave off any of these cutbacks. Ramone Cortines, SHAME ON YOU!

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