LOS ANGELES (October 5, 2010) – Morrison & Foerster LLP, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Public Counsel Law Center, today secured an important settlement agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on behalf of students in three LAUSD schools who had sued the State and school district over the State’s decision to reduce education funding in response to the fiscal crisis and LAUSD’s subsequent layoff of thousands of teachers. The budget-based layoffs disproportionately affected the most challenged schools, and today’s agreement incorporates broad and sweeping changes that will protect schools similar to those of the plaintiffs’ from hard-hitting reductions in force (RIFs).
In May 2010, Morrison & Foerster and co-counsel obtained from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger a preliminary injunction to enjoin further RIFs at plaintiffs’ schools, finding that “high teacher turnover devastates educational opportunity” and that the RIFs violated plaintiffs’ constitutional right to equal education opportunity. In addition to halting further reductions to these schools, the preliminary injunction forced LAUSD to negotiate changes to prevent teacher RIFs from affecting the most challenged schools so disproportionately in the future.
The settlement reached today, which is subject to court approval, will ensure that no school has a higher percentage of RIFs than the district-wide average. It will also prohibit RIFs altogether at the 25 LAUSD schools with the highest recent teacher turnover rates, as well as at up to 20 new schools. Additionally, the school district will actively engage in collaborative efforts with these schools to fill their teacher vacancies with teachers who are fully credentialed and properly skilled, and it will adopt new retention incentives for both teachers and administrators.
Morrison & Foerster partner Sean Gates said, “We are extremely pleased with today’s vote. This important agreement goes a long way towards ensuring that all Los Angeles public school students’ constitutional rights to equal education opportunity are no longer at risk. Today’s vote proves that even in times of extreme economic stress, we can work together to develop creative solutions and protect the rights of those most vulnerable.”
Along with Mr. Gates, the Morrison & Foerster team included partner Jack Londen and associate Dale Larson.