LOS ANGELES — Negotiations between the union
representing striking teachers and the Los
Angeles Unified School District were expected to resume Jan. 17 at City Hall.
“The Mayor’s Office will facilitate
these negotiations,” said a statement released by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union
representing the teachers, “will be ready
to bargain and our team will work long and hard toward an agreement that benefits our students, members and
communities,” Arlene Inouye, the union’s bargaining chair, said.
Leaders from the union and district met with
Garcetti and State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Tony Thurmond Jan. 16 and “great progress” was made, Thurmond said.
“I am certain that together we will
get [through] this and we will get our
kids back to school,” Thurmond said.
The last negotiating session was held Jan. 11.
The first teachers strike to hit the district in
30 years went into its fourth day with thousands of
educators picketing for increased pay,
smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses,
counselors and librarians.
Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said he did not
expect any deal to be reached in the immediate future, and suggested talks were
likely to go at least into the weekend.
“After 21 months of negotiations, I
think it would be an unrealistic expectation
to say that this will be over after today, because there are hard issues to work
through, and they haven’t been moving on class size,” Caputo-Pearl said during
a morning rally and news conference at Arleta High School.
“And class size is important. They
haven’t been moving on some other key things.”
Caputo-Pearl also said another large UTLA rally
was being planned at Grand Park next to City Hall Jan.
18. Thousand of UTLA members rallied at the park Jan. 14, the first day of the strike, before marching through
downtown to LAUSD headquarters.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said earlier
this week the district has offered the union as much as it can given its
“It’s just math,” he told
reporters. “This is just math. It’s not a values
conversation. The experts have all said we do not have the ability to spend more
than we’re spending.”
However, a pair of LAUSD Board of
Education members issued statements Jan. 16 expressing frustration with the
continuing work stoppage. One of them criticized Beutner for failing to broker
a resolution and accused him of spreading misinformation.
“I can no longer allow Mr. Beutner
to speak for me or to suggest that the
massive public relations, and often misinformation, campaign that he is waging
represents my views about the current teachers strike,” board member Scott Schmerelson said. “We need to end the strike and
get back to our teachers teaching and our
“Instead of repeating the doom,
gloom and heading for bankruptcy predictions
that we have heard for decades, I believe that it is Mr. Beutner’s job to
honestly identify sources of funding buried in our existing budget, and the
revenue growth predicted for next year, that could be creatively sourced and
invested in the students,” he added.
Fellow board member George McKenna, who
represents most of South Los Angeles, noted that he and Schmerelson last year
proposed that the district ask voters to approve a parcel tax to generate local
revenue for schools, but the board rejected the idea.
“We all agree that the state must
allocate more money for public education,”
McKenna said. “That should have been a legislative priority with a full-court
press a year ago, not last week. If we expect teachers to do everything in their power to avoid a strike, then we
have an obligation to do everything in
our power to do the same.”
The union has been calling for the hiring of more
teachers and support staff, such as nurses, counselors
and librarians, along with reduced class sizes.
The district’s most recent offer to the union was
made Jan. 11, with the package including, among other
things, the hiring of 1,200 teachers, capping middle and high school
English/math classes at 39 students, capping grades four through six at 35
students and maintaining all other existing class sizes, adding a full-time nurse at every elementary
school and another academic counselor at high schools.
The increased staffing, however, would only be
for one year, with the district saying the money to pay
for the extra employees would come out of a one-time reserve.
“This represents the best we can
do, recognizing that it is our obligation
to provide as much resources as possible to support out students in each and
every one of our schools,” Beutner said Jan. 11.
UTLA rejected the offer, saying it did not go far
enough to bolster school staffing, reduce class sizes
and prevent them from increasing in the future. The union also blasted the
district’s staff-increase proposal for being only a one-year offer, and
contended the district’s salary increase proposal is contingent on benefit cuts to future union members.
The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6 percent raise
spread over the first two years of a three-year contract
while UTLA wants a 6.5 percent raise that would take effect all at once and a
The district claims the union’s contract demands
would bankrupt the LAUSD, but the union disputes that
contention, pointing to what it calls an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund
and insisting the district has not faced a financial deficit in five years. The
district contends that reserve fund is already
being spent, in part on the salary increase for teachers.
The second-largest school district in the nation,
the LAUSD covers 710 square miles and serves more than
694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter
schools, most of which are staffed with non-union teachers unaffected by the
strike. The district says about 500,000
students are impacted by the walkout.
The district hired 400 substitutes, and 2,000
administrators with teaching credentials have been
reassigned during the strike. The district has set up an information hotline
for parents at (213) 443-1300.
According to the LAUSD, at least 132,411 of
strike-affected students went to class Jan. 16, although figures from a dozen
other campuses were still being tallied. That figure is a 22 percent drop from
Jan. 15’s revised attendance figure of 171,480.
On Jan. 14, the first day of the strike, 156,774
students went to class.
District officials said the absentee rate means a
gross revenue loss of about $69 million in state funding,
which is based on daily attendance. The loss is partially offset by millions of
dollars in salaries that aren’t being paid to the striking teachers. Beutner
estimated earlier this week that the district suffered a net loss of roughly
$15 million on the first day of the strike.
The district sent a letter to parents this week,
noting that state law does not excuse absences in case
of a strike and students are expected to attend class,” but saying school
principals “will work with students and families
“At the moment, schools will not be
notifying parents of absences, but will continue to monitor student attendance
and provide support to students on an individual basis,” the district’s letter
said. “Student absences during the strike will not impact graduation.”
UTLA has accused the district of failing to issue
a “clear, definitive statement” on how the
district is handling absences, effectively “exploiting parents’ fears and knowingly spreading confusion to try to
Underlying the strike is the issue of charter
schools. Union officials have accused Beutner and some
members of the school board of favoring a vast expansion of privately operated
charter schools, which are governed by the state and generally staffed by