A war of words continued Tuesday between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing 33,000 teachers, with the release of a fact-finding report adding fuel to the fire as the district faces the possibility of its first teachers’ strike since 1989.
The fact-finding report recommended adoption of a 6 percent salary increase, with 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2017, and the other 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2018. The LAUSD issued a statement Tuesday morning saying the teachers’ union “has agreed to the 6 percent salary raise” and suggesting the agreement on that issue “can provide the basis for a reasonable settlement of the remaining items.”
On Tuesday afternoon, however, United Teachers Los Angeles issued a response insisting “no agreement — salary or otherwise — has been reached between UTLA and LAUSD.”
“Implying that an agreement has been reached tells us he (Superintendent Austin Beutner) is more interested in perpetuating falsehoods than finding a real path to an agreement that respects teachers, parents, our students and communities,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said.
UTLA’s members have already voted to authorize a strike if a contract agreement can’t be reached. Tens of thousands of teachers and their supporters held a march in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday in a show of strength.
The fact finding report was ordered following failed state mediation in the contract dispute. With the fact-finding report released, the union could potentially call for a strike. There was no immediate word on whether the union plans to make such a move, but union officials scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday “to make an announcement.”
UTLA officials have stressed in the past that salary was only one part of the contract dispute. The union has been pushing for a 6.5 percent pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2016.
But the union is also demanding contract language limiting class sizes; more hiring of nurses, counselors and librarians; reductions in standardized testing; and accountability measures for charter schools.
District officials previously said the union’s contract proposal would increase the district’s $500 million deficit during the current school year by another $813 million.
In response, the union has criticized the district and Beutner, saying LAUSD has a “record breaking” reserve fund of about $1.8 billion that should be tapped to make improvements in school staffing.
The fact finder’s report recommended that the district allocate funds — estimated by the district at $30 million — to reduce class sizes and hire more nurses, librarians and counselors. It also calls for the creation of a working group so the district and UTLA can develop contract language relating to class sizes.
“There is no doubt that the union’s demands at this point are expensive and the parties are not in agreement on how to cost this item, which will be key to its resolution,” according to the report. “My recommendation for settlement involves the dedication of a percentage of money to be used for the employment of teachers and other staff to reduce class size and provide additional student access to the services of librarians, nurses and professional staff.”
With the fact-finding report released, the union could technically move forward with a strike, which would be the first by LAUSD teachers since 1989. Union officials said over the weekend that if no agreement was reached, a strike could be called next month.
The district’s Tuesday morning statement stressed that a strike “would harm students, families and communities most in need.”
“Los Angeles Unified believes the Fact Finder Report and the agreement on 6 percent can provide the basis for a reasonable settlement of the remaining items and hopes UTLA will engage in good-faith bargaining to find an agreement,” according to the district.
In response, Caputo-Pearl said, “Through the last 20 months of bargaining, LAUSD has given almost no legitimate proposals. Working with high-priced consultants behind the scenes, Beutner lies about the budget and refuses to share public records. We demand he retract his statements made earlier today, and that he stop hoarding the close to $2 billion unrestricted reserves.”
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