The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is expected Tuesday to formally sign off on a new labor contract with the teachers’ union, but county officials warned the agreement “is not sustainable on an ongoing basis.”
The county Office of Education, which oversees the finances of local school districts, found that the contract with United Teachers Los Angeles “relies heavily on one-time funding sources and projected revenues” and would exhaust the district’s financial reserves below legal requirements within two years.
“The district’s financial analysis indicates it is still unable to meet its reserve requirement in 2020-21 indicating that the agreement is not sustainable on an ongoing basis,” according to the county’s report to the LAUSD board.
“We have communicated our concerns in prior letters regarding the district’s growing structural deficit, and have yet to see the Governing Board implement significant expenditure reductions and/or revenue enhancements that would stabilize the district’s financial position,” according to the county. “This (contract proposal) continues the district’s practice of allowing the ending fund balance to erode, and continues to move the district toward financial insolvency.”
The report states that if the school board approves the teachers’ contract, it will be required to submit a “Fiscal Stabilization Plan” by March 18 outlining spending cuts and/or revenue increases that will be undertaken to “fund the ongoing costs” of the agreement. If that plan is deemed insufficient, the county may take steps including “assigning a fiscal adviser with stay and rescind authority over Governing Board actions.”
The labor contract, which calls for the hiring of more teachers, along with support staff such as nurses, counselors and librarians, has already been ratified by members of United Teachers Los Angeles.
During a teachers’ strike that lasted six days but came to an end last week with the announcement of the tentative labor agreement, district officials repeatedly insisted that the union’s overall demands could potentially bankrupt the district. UTLA officials disputed that claim, pointing to the district’s estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund and questioning the accuracy of district and county financial projections.
The LAUSD board is expected to vote on the contract proposal Tuesday afternoon.
The agreement also calls on the board to consider a resolution pushing for a moratorium on charter schools opening within the district pending a state study of the impact of charters on public schools. Expansion of charter schools and co-location of charters on LAUSD campuses was a major point of contention with the union during contract talks, with UTLA contending charters drain students and millions of dollars in state funding away from the district.
The resolution going before the board Tuesday calls on LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to return to the board in 90 days with “a plan to pursue laws intended to authorize a moratorium on new charter schools within the boundaries of the district, and report if the authority for such a moratorium requires a voter-approved ballot initiative at the local or state level.”
The resolution also requests that the governor and state education officials “conduct a comprehensive study to inform future policy considerations for charter authorization reform,” and while that study is being conducted, that the state “impose a temporary moratorium on new charter schools in our school district.”
Members of the advocacy group Reclaim Our Schools L.A. plan to attend the meeting with district parents “to hold the board accountable to their promise” to adopt the resolution.
Officials with the California Charter Schools Association also plan to attend the meeting with charter-school parents, calling on the board to reject the resolution, saying a ban “will unfairly target the most vulnerable students in Los Angeles.”