Amid a continuing war of words with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union representing 33,000 teachers will hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss the ongoing contract dispute, and possibly shed light on the prospect of a strike.
United Teachers Los Angeles officials plan to “make an announcement” at 10 a.m. The news conference was called Tuesday following the release of a fact-finder’s report on the continuing stalemate in talks.
The fact finder was appointed after a series of mediation sessions failed to reach an agreement. With the release of the fact-finding report, the teachers union could potentially move ahead with a strike. The LAUSD has not had a 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, UTLA 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.
UTLA officials have repeatedly stressed 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; calling for 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.”
The district’s Tuesday morning statement stressed that a teachers’ 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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