Los Angeles ACLU wins case against layoffs based on seniority at
low-income schools--but San Diego ACLU refuses to take action
Possible Layoffs Would Hit Schools With Poor Students Hardest
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
Seventeen schools in San Diego Unified would lose more than one-fourth of their
teaching staff if the school board votes for layoffs this week, according to a memo from its
deputy superintendent. The hardest hit school would be Baker Elementary, which would
lose 44 percent of its educators.
Under state law, the newest teachers are generally the first to lose their jobs. It's
commonly known as "last hired, first fired." That means schools with lots of new teachers
get hit harder when layoffs strike, as we recently explained with NBC San Diego. Most of
the hardest hit schools have high percentages of disadvantaged kids.
To put these numbers in perspective, the average San Diego Unified elementary school
has 64 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches; middle schools
average 60 percent eligible.
The new numbers back up an old worry: That layoffs have a disproportionate impact on
the neediest schools. The biggest school district in the state, Los Angeles Unified,
recently struck a legal settlement with the Public Counsel Law Center and
the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California to protect
disadvantaged schools from teacher layoffs.
That means more senior teachers in other schools will end up losing their jobs instead.
Los Angeles fought the settlement. Unions have generally argued that seniority is the
fairest way to make the painful choice of which teachers should lose their jobs.
The same issue exists in San Diego Unified, but so far, there is no public plan to address
it. The lawsuit in Los Angeles sets a legal precedent that someone could use to press the
same case in San Diego, but the ruling only applies to Los Angeles.:
Disadvantaged schools may get break in layoffs
Teachers at underperforming schools may get increased protection
By Maureen Magee
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
April 20, 2011
Cindy Marten, principal at Central Elementary School, greets student Kayla
Moyer, 8, on Wednesday. Teachers at disadvantaged schools like this got
a disproportionate number of pink slips warning of layoffs.
When one in six teachers in the San Diego school district were warned they
could lose their job last month, a disproportionate number of those pink
slips were issued at campuses serving the most disadvantaged students.
But as some layoff notices get rescinded — more than 40 percent have
been recalled so far — some teachers at the neediest schools have won
job protection over their colleagues in more affluent neighborhoods.
Critics have long complained that the “last hired, first fired” seniority-based
layoffs disrupt the stability of struggling schools that typically employ the
most new teachers. In a settlement to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the
Public Counsel Law Center, the Los Angeles school district exempted 45
needy campuses from seniority-based layoffs.
Since then, the San Diego Unified School District has started to chip away
at the practice that can lead to wholesale faculty changes at some of its
struggling campuses. Although the change is slight, it could begin to help
schools maintain some stability for disadvantaged students.“The overall
issue of trying to provide stability to high-poverty schools is something that
I believe in and the majority of the board believes in,” said San Diego
school board President Richard Barrera. “The question becomes, what is
the best way to get at that. For me the best way is not laying off teachers.”
When districts warn teachers they could be laid off, they issue pinks slips
by credential and hire date. Usually, more employees are tapped for layoffs
But undoing some or all of the layoff notices is more difficult and it requires
districts to turn to tiebreakers, criteria that determines whose pink slip to
rescind or which teacher to rehire when educators share similar credentials
and seniority dates.
Tiebreakers usually include additional credentials or specialty
certifications. But this year, San Diego Unified’s No. 1 tiebreaker is whether
a teacher works at a school ranked in the bottom three deciles on the
Academic Performance Index, an indication they are struggling to meet test
“When these schools can have the same teachers year after year, that
helps with stability,” said Hedieh Khajari, human resources officer for San
The district issued layoff notices to 1,355 educators in March to help offset
a projected deficit of $114 million to the district’s $1.04 billion operating
budget. Teachers targeted for pink slips hold various credentials and were
hired since 2003, the year of a hiring spree due, in part, to a state program
to trim class sizes.
Since its budget plan has changed slightly in the past few weeks, the
district has rescinded at least 559 pink slips issued to elementary school
teachers, music teachers, and school nurses. The layoff notices were
canceled based on seniority first, then based on a list of 25 tiebreakers if
At Central Elementary School in City Heights, where most students qualify
for subsidized meals and speak English as a second language, 41 percent
of teachers got pink slips. So far, four of those 16 teachers had their
|San Diego Education Report