School Districts Have Flexibility in Making Layoffs in Order to Provide Equal Education to All, Ruling Says

Saying that the state’s education code allows school districts flexibility in laying off teachers in order to comply with constitutional requirements to provide equal education to all students, a Superior Court judge granted an injunction today that prevents the Los Angeles Unified School District from laying off teachers at Gompers, Liechty and Markham middle schools this year. The three schools, which primarily serve low-income students and students of color, saw their teaching corps disproportionately decimated by a round of budget-driven layoffs last year, causing their education efforts to fall below the state constitutional guarantee that all students will receive a basic education consistent with prevailing statewide standards.

“The Education Code expressly allows a school district to deviate from… seniority for… purposes of maintaining or achieving compliance with constitutional requirements related to equal protection of the laws,” said the ruling from Judge William F. Highberger.

“'Today's landmark decision carries on the ideals of Brown v. Board of Education that no child may be deprived of the right to learn,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California. “The injunction granted by a conscientious and courageous judge establishes the principle that government may not deny children their right to equal educational opportunity by disproportionately laying off teachers in communities such as Watts and Pico-Union. The children of Linda Brown are smiling.”

“Today’s decision gives hope back to Watts and East Los Angeles that their kids count every bit as much as students everywhere else,” said Catherine Lhamon, director of impact litigation at Public Counsel Law Center. “We celebrate this historic victory for equal rights and look forward to beginning the work to ensure that no students will suffer in future.”

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California, Public Counsel Law Center and the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, on behalf of students at the three schools.