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Judge Bars Teacher Layoffs at 3 L.A. Schools

As teacher layoffs become more of an issue nationwide, a ruling last week by a California Superior Court judge adds a legal wrinkle for school districts.

The judge issued an injunction barring the Los Angeles Unified School District from additional layoffs of teachers at three low-performing middle schools that were disproportionately affected by a 2009 round of job cuts.

The layoffs "have had and will have a disparate negative impact on plaintiffs' schools," Judge William F. Highberger said in his May 13 opinion in Reed v. State of California. "The disparities matter because the evidence shows there is a distinct relationship between high teacher turnover and the quality of educational opportunities afforded: High teacher turnover devastates educational opportunity."

The class action filed on behalf of students at the three schools--Samuel Gompers, Edwin Markham, and John H. Liechty--is based on a provision of the California Constitution that guarantees all public school students a fundamental right of "basic equality of educational opportunity."

Judge Highberger said he realized his injunction against layoffs at the three schools may force the school district to lay off other teachers, perhaps even trumping teacher seniority lists. "The legislature clearly qualifies teachers' interests in seniority-based layoffs to accommodate constitutional equal protection interests," the judge said.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the injunction here.

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