LAUSD keeps hiring as enrollment declines and financial crisis looms
Mike Szymanski | August 29, 2016
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LA Unified officials persistently wring their hands about losing students year after year, but meanwhile the number of employees continues to rise.
In their latest tally, school district employees rose from 59,563 in the 2014-2015 school year to 59,823 last year and 60,191 in the 2016-2017 school year. (A final accounting of the actual hires will be available after the district’s Norm Day on Sept. 16.)
Last fall an Independent Financial Review Panel recommended a reduction of about 10,000 staff members, including administrators, classified and certificated personnel, for a savings of half a billion dollars a year for the district that faces a dire budget crisis.
And yet both Superintendent Michelle King and school board President Steve Zimmer have expressed the need to hire more employees, both to meet future expected shortages and to replenish the widespread cuts made under the John Deasy administration during the last recession. Meanwhile, some schools still complain of classes that are overcrowded and cuts in janitors and support staff.
About a week before the school year began, King posed with newly hired teachers and sent it out on her district Twitter account and wrote that she is “welcoming over 600 new teachers. Welcome to the family!”
And last week when touting higher test scores, King noted that the district is providing more teachers at high-needs middle schools and high schools to help support the achievement levels.
“I believe that our overall investments in teachers, instructional coaches and restorative justice counselors for our deserving schools will pay off with even better results next year and in years to come,” King said.
King noted in her informative meetings last school year that the generous health benefits package by the district along with employee numbers are a major cause for the financial drain on the district and there’s a drastic need to act quickly to remain solvent.
Yet the school board last week approved hiring 1,632 more classified, certificated and unclassified employees. And they approved 537 new hires, mostly teachers and counselors, 51 of them with provisional intern permits.
The district over the last year has decreased the number of teachers, from 26,827 to this year’s estimated 26,556. The biggest increase in personnel includes K-12 administrators, nurses, counselors and psychologists.
Zimmer expressed strong concern about not having the needed academic counselors for students in upcoming years and encouraged the superintendent to let nearby colleges and universities know they are hiring for those positions.
Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson said the additional teachers are an investment in class size reductions and adding to elective opportunities in middle and high schools. She said the teachers will help replenish past losses in classes involving arts, robotics, physical education and leadership courses.
“It means we’re hiring,” Gipson said. She noted that the employee numbers “ebb and flow” due to retirements and transfers.
It was a surprise to school board members late last year when they saw that administrative staff increased 22 percent in the last five years. In the superintendent’s report, the number of teachers had dropped 9 percent in the same period. And teachers and certified staff are aging toward retirement, heading toward a possible teacher shortage.
King said she will outline her cost-saving measures to the school board later in the year.