With the first Los Angeles teachers’ strike in 30 years set to possibly start on Thursday, a legal maneuver by the Los Angeles Unified School District to delay the walkout by at least a few days did not produce any results Tuesday.
In dispute is whether United Teachers Los Angeles gave the LAUSD a legally required 10-day notice that its members would stop working under the existing contract, but no hearing took place after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner denied a motion by UTLA for an exemption to the electronic filing rules that would have allowed a hearing to happen.
The court has not announced whether a ruling will be made Wednesday.
The district is seeking an injunction based on alleged “insufficient notice of intent to strike” — an assertion union officials are calling “unsubstantiated” and “disingenuous.”
The union’s goal is to preempt the district from going to court on the same issue after a strike begins, the Los Angeles Times reported. If that occurred, a judge could shut down the strike for several days, dampening its momentum.
A bargaining session held Monday failed to break the logjam in their protracted negotiations, and the two sides have scheduled a meeting Wednesday morning.
The LAUSD said it brought forward a new proposal Monday that would have added nearly 1,000 additional teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, which the UTLA rejected.
UTLA President Alex-Caputo Pearl told reporters outside district headquarters Monday that he had several problems with the proposal and that he was surprised the district had “so little to offer. Unless something changes significantly there will be a strike in the city of L.A.”
The LAUSD Board of Education passed a motion Tuesday that eases background check requirements for some parent volunteers in anticipation of the need for help in the event of a strike. Those volunteers will not need to pass a full federal background check, but will still be checked against a national database of sex offenders.
The board also passed a resolution that directs Superintendent Austin Beutner to create a three-year “enterprise plan” aimed at bringing in more money.
The resolution states that the district faces a structural budget deficit that requires the district to cut costs and generate additional revenue, and sets a March 18 deadline for creating a plan that could include parcel tax and school bond measures, as well as strategies for increasing enrollment.
“We recognize that Los Angeles Unified needs more resources, and this resolution confirms our commitment to work with families, labor partners, and the communities we serve to achieve this,” Beutner said.
No one issue separates the two sides. They have been negotiating for nearly two years without coming close to a resolution. They’ve already gone through mediation and a fact-finding session in recent months. The fact finder’s report was issued last month, and it sparked more verbal sparring between the two sides.
Caputo-Pearl said after Monday’s bargaining session that the district’s latest proposal was inadequate for several reasons, including that a potential raise for teachers would be contingent on cutting future health care benefits, that it actually increases class size instead of lowering it, and would not add enough long-term nurses, counselors, and librarians.
With around 1,000 schools in the district, Caputo-Pearl said the offer would only amount to about one additional employee per school.
Caputo-Pearl also said that it was not clear if the 1,000 positions agreed to by the district would be new hires, or the result of the district shuffling around employees.
However, the district insisted Wednesday that its contract offer to the union incorporates many of the recommendations including in the fact-finding report, such as a 6 percent pay raise, a $30 million investment in hiring of professional staff and reducing class sizes and elimination of a section of the labor agreement that the union claims would allow the district to unilaterally increase class size.
UTLA officials have said many elements of the district’s offer remained “unclear,” suggesting that the 6 percent salary increase being offered still appears to be contingent on cuts to future union members’ health care and contending the offer also appears to maintain the contract section allowing increases in class size.
The union is also continuing to push for increased district investment in hiring of counselors, nurses, librarians and other professional staff, saying the $30 million proposed by the district would have a negligible impact on only a small percentage of LAUSD campuses.
The union has been pushing the district to tap into an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund to hire more staff and reduce class sizes. LAUSD claims the staffing increases being demanded by the union would cost an estimated $786 million a year, further depleting a district already facing a $500 million deficit.
Beutner told reporters the district simply did not have enough money to address all of UTLA’s demands on reducing class sizes.
“There’s no more than that, so the notion that we are hoarding reserves, the notion that more money exists somewhere else to give more to reduce class sizes at this time, is not accurate,” Beutner said. “We are spending more than we have in service of our students.”