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Not For Teacher: Schools Struggle Nation Wide

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 25, 2010 12:45 PM

Across the country, the educational system is flailing under the pressure of internal educational challenges combined with increased budget constraints due to the economic downturn. Lack of funds for schools have resulted in lay-offs and lawsuits in many districts, but this week Indiana and Los Angeles, California are in the news. In addition, there is the small issue of a mass firing at a struggling Rhode Island High School.

According to a report by the IndyStar, a group of school districts banded together to file a lawsuit challenging the legislature's funding proposal which they claim does not live up to the state constitutional requirement of a "uniform" school system. The schools are suing over the way the funds are allocated throughout the state, which has districts with widely varying levels of need. State legislators are unhappy about what they see as second guessing by school officials and claim the suit could result in less money not more, for the three districts party to the suit.

In Los Angeles, the L.A. Times reports the county school district and state have been sued by the ACLU. The suit filed on February 23, claims school lay-offs disproportionately affect poor and urban schools. Los Angeles County is the second largest school system in the nation. Last year, the district laid-off more than 2,000 teachers with the least seniority, per union requirements. Those teachers worked mostly in the poorer areas of the district. The problem of budget constraints disproportionally affecting low income and urban schools is wide-spread and will no doubt engender more lawsuits in California and other states in financial crisis mode.

And in Rhode Island, ABC News reports School Superintendent Frances Gallo fired an entire high school teaching staff, all 74 of them. The school had the worst performance record in the state, with only 48 percent of its students graduating within four years. The ongoing negotiations regarding an "improvement plan" to turn the school around asked the teachers to put in more hours during the day and after school tutoring the students. The teachers were also asked to eat lunch with the students once a week. The union was offered extra pay of $30 an hour for the extra work required instead of the $90 an hour they asked for. They turned it down.

After the union action, Gallo says she had no alternatives left, and shifted the school, per federal education guidelines, from an improvement plan to a "turnaround plan," firing the whole staff. Under the plan, she is not permitted to re-hire more than 50 percent of the staff.  Rhode Island secondary teachers earn about $10,000 a year more than the national average.

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