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LAUSD reassigns 943 employees, laying off 114, mostly library aides

Mike Szymanski | June 20, 2017

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In an effort to stave off a pending budget deficit, the LA Unified school board agreed Tuesday to reassign 943 classified employees, laying off 114 of them.

These reduction-in-force notices are in addition to 115 administrative layoffs that are expected to be finalized by the end of the month.

The latest RIF notices include accounting, financial aid, and technical specialists, as well as clerks, campus aides, and payroll specialists. However, the largest group being laid off — 30 positions — are library aides leaving mostly elementary schools.

A total of 541 classified employees will go to jobs that are equal to their present pay rate, and the rest will be laid off or given lower pay or fewer hours, according to district personnel director Karla Gould. Most of the positions are in the central office at the Beaudry headquarters downtown, Gold said.

Superintendent Michelle King noted that the district allowed principals and local districts to decide many of the positions to be cut, which will result in 43 school libraries without staff.

“We have to honor what they decided to do given the constraints they have been given by the state,” King said. “Some schools have re-imagined what to do to get to their goal.”

School board President Steve Zimmer said, “This is one of the hardest things we do, and they are necessary changes caused by the budget.”

Zimmer added, “There are more layoffs this year, particularly library aides, some clerks, and financial managers.”

King said most of the cuts resulted from her directive last year for departments to present a plan for reducing their budgets by 30 percent. In 2015, 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. LA Unified is projecting a balanced budget for next year and the following year, but in 2019-20, a $422 million deficit is projected.

Zimmer asked if the schools that didn’t fund their library positions would know that their libraries could close. The administrators weren’t sure, even though the schools are supposed to submit plans on how their book collections would remain available to students. Labor agreements and regulations prevent volunteers from operating libraries.

Outgoing school board member Mónica Ratliff said she was particularly concerned about the loss of library positions.

“This is a real issue that we have to come to terms with publicly,” Ratliff said. “The reality is that these libraries will be shut.”

Board member Scott Schmerelson said that the district “is not protecting hundreds of thousands of books that have been left unprotected.”

Board member Ref Rodriguez applauded that the communities made their own decisions but he noted that one of the schools has no public library nearby. “Literacy is one of our main goals, and it’s important to keep that as a priority,” he said.

Ratliff said that schools are not being honest about how they plan to keep libraries going. “Reasonably, honestly, how can you keep them open? Someone has to protect the books, scan the books out? All these books at the schools are no longer really accessible.”

Board member George McKenna lamented, “It’s hard to imagine schools without libraries, and if you can’t get access to your books, you’re stuck.”

Letetsia Fox, president of the California School Employees Association, asked the board to not approve the reassignments.

“Yes, 67 percent are being reassigned and have a place to go, but many of these people are going from 261 pay days to 204 and it will be hard for them,” Fox said.

The board approved the decision on consent, meaning unanimously.

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