Tue, Aug

So How DOES the New Teacher Layoff Law Add Up?

ALPERN AT LARGE - One always has to wonder about laws “passed at the last minute with no public debate as part of the budget package in late June” (link), and the new Sacramento requirement of school districts to maintain their current levels of teachers and programs—even if funding drops—causes just that sort of wonder.

Which quickly raises a few other wondrous (and puckish) questions to pose for Sacramento, such as:

1) Even if I get older, can Sacramento legislate that I can’t go completely bald?

2) Even if I double my caloric intake, can Sacramento legislate that I can’t get any fatter?

3) Even if I drink a case of beer every day, can Sacramento legislate that my liver won’t become cirrhotic?

But seriously, folks (you guys really are a great audience), did you hear the joke about the accountant, the 800 pound gorilla, the Sacramento legislator and the teacher’s union leader that drove their car off a cliff?

(Sigh)  All right.  OK.  I get it.  Here’s the obligatory disclaimer:  I love children, I deeply value education as the cornerstone of modern civilization, and I view teacher layoffs as a horrible part of our reality that is just plain BAD.

Happy now?  So now for some REAL questions:

1) Does this mean that the budgetary pundits, the local school districts and everyone else with their hair on fire about this new law are closed-minded about what this law means, or are their criticisms spot-on?

2) Is this a way to force the taxpayers to raise taxes, either at the state or at the local level?  

3) If so, what if the taxpayers continue to “just say no” and “read my lips” to no new taxes?

4) Will this force local school districts into bankruptcy?

But in all fairness and sincerity, is there a BIGGER question or two behind all this? For example: for school districts to pursue further budgetary restrictions they must focus more on administrative inefficiencies before more teachers are shed?  Is this an attempt on the part of legislators and “front-line” teachers to redirect school boards to cut costs in ways that affect students less?

Because that sort of initiative would be well-received by taxpayers and teachers alike—it’s no secret that there’s too much impetus for teachers to get promoted and paid more to LEAVE the classroom, and not enough impetus to encourage teachers to RETURN to or STAY in the classroom.

Similarly, and on a grander scale, there’s still no good answers for the hordes of burned-out teachers and school administrators who really, really need to find a new career (preferably one that has little or nothing to do with education), in order to make room for those wonderful teachers and administrators who still have the passion to educate our children.

Some school districts throughout the state have prepared for, and are adapting to, the awful education cuts that have been occurring over the past few years.  Others, such as the LAUSD, are burdened with a teachers union (United Teachers Los Angeles) that’s completely out of touch with our modern reality. (Link)

One can only hope the UTLA leaders have learned Braille in order to finally read the myriad pundits, from all political corners, who view the UTLA as an undeniable part of the problems facing young Angelenos.  Clearly, the UTLA leadership is blind and deaf to the fact that everyone hates them for a lot of very good reasons.

So let’s cut costs without losing teachers.  As a physician, I’m well aware that a similar problem of cutting medical costs without losing doctors, nurses and quality health care is also one we must confront.  I’m also aware that I, and other health care professionals, am working harder to see more patients while getting reimbursed less per patient than in the past, an analogy that probably also applies to education.

So my final question, now that “Sacramento hath spoken!”

Does this new law allow districts to cut every teacher’s salary to make their budgets add up?  

Because that would definitely prevent teacher layoffs during an era of decreased education funding.

Just asking.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently co-chairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)   -cw

Tags: Sacramento, teacher cuts, LAUSD, teachers union, layoffs

Vol 9 Issue 55
Pub: July 13, 2011