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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SF Schools Sue City; Claim Newsom Making Education a Dumping Ground for Unwanted City Workers

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 1:10 PM

San Francisco's school district alleges Mayor Gavin Newsom is in favor of busing -- busing in laid off city employees to take school district jobs, that is

San Francisco's school district has sued the city, claiming Mayor Gavin Newsom's appointees have tried to turn the district into a dumping ground for laid off city workers.

According to allegations spelled out in a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court last Monday, Newsom's staff has repeatedly ordered the school district to replace current school workers with laid off city employees. When the district refused, Newsom staffers and appointees sent threatening letters, saying refusal to employ displaced city workers was unlawful.

But the school district says it's Newsom's staff who are violating the law.

Under the state's constitution, school districts are separate agencies, managed by independent school boards, and not subject to control by mayors, county supervisors, or other municipal officials.

San Francisco's civil service rules say employees who are laid off for budget reasons have the right to replace another city employee with less seniority in a similar job, even if the bumped employee works in a different department. As the city moved to lay off 400 workers in January and April, Newsom staffers ordered the School District to accept six displaced workers. The School District refused. On April 17, the city's Civil Service Commission sent a letter "demanding" that the schools hire the bumped workers. Three days later the school district filed suit, asking a judge to order the city to stop Newsom from attempting to meddle in school affairs.

The tiff is ironic in light of Newsom's on-the-record claims of irritation with the city's byzantine "bumping rights" system, in which replacing a single worker can set off a cascade of displacement where a dozen or so employees end up changing jobs to accommodate senior laid-off employees -- at a cost many times the original worker's pay.

Aside from putting the lie to the mayor's supposed desire for civil service reform, this dispute makes Newsom's attempts to paint himself as a pro-education prolitician seem, well, juvenile. As part of his pitch for governor, Newsom last week released a Web video advertisement, in which the former husband of his top education aide declared -- in halting Spanish -- that San Francisco schools are improving and teachers are keeping their jobs. If the school district's legal complaint is accurate, however, the mayor's only direct involvement in schools' management has been an attempt to illegally pressure administrators into replacing their own staff with unwanted city workers.

As of press time, the city had not filed a response to the schools' lawsuit. The school district and the city are next scheduled to meet at a courthouse case management conference September 18.

Photo   |   Joedamadman

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