By Connie Llanos Staff Writer
Posted: 03/01/2010 07:33:43 PM PST

Los Angeles Unified officials are expected to approve a mass mailing of nearly 4,700 layoff notices for teachers, administrators, counselors and nurses Tuesday as they work to close a crippling $640 million budget deficit.

Recommended by the district’s finance staff in a report to be reviewed today by the school board, the move would virtually eliminate school nurses and librarians, increase all class sizes – including a high of up to 44 students in middle school – and boost counselor loads to 1,000 students each.

Layoff notices would also go out to nearly 1,000 janitors and maintenance workers and 520 school office workers if the board approves the recommendations.

While the school district often rescinds layoff notices after they are sent on March 15, usually because it manages to find money or unions make concessions, the sheer number of layoffs proposed for the second straight year points to the district’s harsh financial reality.

No matter how much money the district can scrape together over coming months, Los Angeles schools Superintendent Ramon Cortines said some layoffs and cuts to services are inevitable.

“This is disruptive and doesn’t provide stability for our schools, students or parents,” Cortines said. “But I have looked at every area in this district. We are already down to the essentials.”

District officials said the latest plan could be avoided if employee unions approve other cost-cutting plans like implementing furloughs or reducing the school year by a week.

Voters also could approve a new parcel tax that would increase property taxes by $100 per parcel. But even if voters approve the tax, which many doubt with an unemployment rate well into the double digits, it would raise only $92.5 million a year for four years.

Cortines said he’s tried to keep cuts away from the classroom “but there has to be somebody responsible for (financial) accountability in this district.”

Most departments at the district’s downtown headquarters are being asked to cut personnel by 10 to 20 percent, even after many departments were cut in half or all together in 2009.

Remaining workers will be asked to move to a 10-month-per-year calendar – mirroring the work schedule of school-based employees and forcing them to take an 18 percent pay cut.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have lived up to their promises not to cut education budgets any further this year after slicing them deeply in 2009. But education funding still remains at the lower 2009 level for the most part. And without the help of federal stimulus money, which most districts have already spent, school districts have to make up those savings on their own.

Some union leaders still believe that the district has failed to make all possible savings from administrative costs.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he would like to see the elimination of all local district administrators paid to oversee day-to-day school operations.

“We are raising class sizes to the kind of numbers that make educating students nearly impossible,” Duffy said.

“That is the insanity that this school board is going to put us through, and who is hurt the most once again? The students.”

School-based employees also fear that these cuts will severely inhibit their ability to meet the most basic needs of students.

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