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‘Teacher jail’ numbers drop 25%, but LAUSD expects the cost will remain the same

Sarah Favot | August 9, 2017

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The number of LA Unified employees housed in “teacher jail” while the district is investigating disciplinary complaints against them has dropped by nearly a quarter, but officials are projecting it will cost roughly the same to pay their salaries as they await adjudication.

The number of teachers who are “reassigned, pending investigation,” the official name, has dropped to 101, down from 144 last year, according to a district spokeswoman. The number of classified employees on the list has remained fairly steady at 36; there were 37 last year.

The total number of employees in teacher jail this year is 137, a nearly 25 percent decrease from the total last year, which was 181.

The district has projected it will cost $14.9 million to pay these staff members for the 2017-18 school year, according to a district spokeswoman. Last year’s budget documents showed the district budgeted $15 million.

When asked why the budgeted amounts were the same even though there are fewer teachers in the category, the spokeswoman only said the budget has been $15 million for the last several years.

The amount of money spent on teacher jails was a point of contention last year as school board members questioned the expense during budget discussions. While teachers are being investigated for alleged misconduct, they report to administrative office space inside district headquarters but are still paid their regular salaries, while the district must pay substitute teachers to replace them inside the classroom.

District officials have pledged to expedite the investigation of cases to reduce the number of teachers being housed in teacher jails. The latest numbers show the district has made progress.

In 2013, 322 teachers were under investigation, a peak. Since then the number has steadily decreased.

Former teacher Rafe Esquith, a popular educator who was accused of misconduct and fired from his job at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, has filed a $1 billion class-action lawsuit against the district on behalf of 2,000 teachers who have been housed in teacher jail in LA Unified. Attorneys for Esquith have called teacher jail an “unconstitutional imprisonment.” That federal case is pending. He also has filed a defamation lawsuit against the district regarding the accusations against him.

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