In June, Judge Ethel S. Julien ruled that the Orleans Parish School Board and the Louisiana Department of Education illegally fired 7,500 school employees in their attempt to “reform” their education system, according to the New York Times.
The judge’s ruling was influenced by the state superintendent’s request for billions in federal dollars to pay employees made jobless by Hurricane Katrina. Instead, the state-run Recovery School District gained control of virtually all New Orleans schools and most of their operating budget, while the requested federal funds were funneled to the recovery district.
In December, 2005, with almost no budget remaining, the local school board fired 7,500 school employees who were on “disaster leave without pay.” This was in violation of state law which required the board to show just cause before firing a tenured teacher and provide hearings for each fired teacher. Furthermore, once the smoke had cleared, many of the schools reopened as charter schools, hiring nonunionized outsiders instead of the illegally fired teachers.
The class action suit involves 6,900 people and is pending a likely appeal. If it survives, awards will range from $48,000 to $480,000, based on the difference between the money they earned after Katrina and the money they would have earned, in pay and benefits, had they not been fired.