May 7 2009

Money for Nothing

Vicki E. Alger

At more than 11 percent, California has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Tens of thousands of teachers in particular are being laid off statewide. The California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, even launched a Pink Friday campaign in March to protest the more than 27,000 pink slips sent to teachers. Yesterday, however, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District is paying about $10 million to "house" 160 teachers-a euphemism for paying them not to teach. These are teachers accused of sexual contact with students, possessing drugs, and theft, along with other charges. Cases can take months and even years to adjudicate. Housing accused teachers is not unique to Los Angeles, but in other places like San Francisco and Chicago those teachers have to work for their paychecks stuffing envelopes or answering phones. But LA isn't like other places. Under the prevailing interpretation of the local union contract, housed teachers are not allowed to perform clerical tasks. "Why would we denigrate [teachers] by forcing them to do something they're not supposed to do?" the United Teachers Los Angeles president A. J. Duffy asked the Times. Yet in his own UTLA column Duffy pleads, "Stop the Layoff Madness." No word yet on whether Duffy plans to kick off a Little Pink Houses campaign-but stay tuned. California only just received its $4 billion share of the federal stimulus pie, and LAUSD's $850 million cut is on its way, compliments of Americans who actually work for a living.

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