Layoffs hit hardest in L.A.'s most troubled neighborhoods

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It's a familiar California refrain. Roughly 2,500 teachers in Los Angeles were informed they might not be returning to their classrooms next fall because of pending budget cuts. As the teacher contract stipulates, teachers with the least seniority are the first to get the ax.

Just as you cannot cry fire in a crowded theater, the state should stop forcing its districts to send out pink slips long before it manages to pass a budget each year, sending younger teachers into panic attacks over the potential loss of a job that may or may not happen depending on what school officials iron out.

With the announcement of the pink slips, there was the usual and not so usual outrage. A high school teacher and a community activist actually went on 24-day hunger strike to draw attention not to their own plights, but to the effect these layoffs have on inner-city kids. In high poverty schools, where teacher turnover is typically high, disadvantaged students are likely to see many of their younger teachers get the boot. An initial estimate found that some inner-city middle and high schools could be losing up to 40 percent of their teaching staff, compared to their wealthier counterparts, which might see only a handful of less experienced teachers depart.

"In these neighborhoods," said Sean Leys, one of the hunger strikers, "schools are life or death for a lot of these kids. It's the inequity of how these layoffs are being done."

In mid-June school administrators found some money and saved 500 of the 2,500 teachers from losing their jobs.

Also in Los Angeles last month, a much heated debate among school board members yielded a resolution that makes it easier to terminate teachers accused of crimes. The motion barely passed, however. When it is that hard to take action on criminal activity, the prospect looks bleak for a similar measure regarding teachers who just happen to be bad at their jobs.