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The Associated Press October 6, 2010, 10:39AM ET

LA schools, ACLU reach agreement on layoffs

The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to cap teacher layoffs at each school at the district-wide average and end layoffs at certain struggling schools to settle a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

ACLU staff attorney David Sapp said the agreement is "groundbreaking," because it limits teacher layoffs based on seniority and marks a major departure from the district's "last hired, first fired" policy.

Officials approved the proposed settlement Tuesday. A judge must approve the agreement.

In February, the ACLU sued the state, which cut education funding to close its massive budget deficit, and the district, which allegedly violated the rights of inner-city students to a quality education as spelled out in the state constitution.

"It's the first of its kind in California, and maybe nationally," he said. "This is the right thing for kids because it makes sure that you don't have some kids bearing the brunt of the layoffs at schools that are already struggling."

District officials promised to work through the current budget crisis to avoid layoffs.

"We look forward to working with all parties in supporting this settlement, and we embrace our labor partners' critical support for the rights of youth," they said in a statement.

The district faces a $268 million deficit in the next academic year that could affect as many as 3,300 jobs.

A spokeswoman for the teachers' union said she couldn't comment on the settlement until union officials review the details.

In addition, a subset of about 40 schools that are not performing will also be protected from layoffs if they have some academic growth, Sapp said.

"We don't want to disrupt what's allowed them to turn the corner," he said.

The settlement also creates an incentive program that will encourage teachers and administrators to work at needy schools, which have struggled to recruit and retain staff.

In May, Superior Court Judge William Highberger blocked district-mandated layoffs at the three plaintiff middle schools, where civil rights advocates charged that students weren't learning from substitutes who replaced laid-off teachers.

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