1st L.A. teach­ers’ strike in 30 years looms

De­mands: higher pay, smaller class size, more hir­ing

Albany Times Union (Sunday) - - NATION / WORLD - By Howard Blume, John My­ers and Son­ali Kohli Los An­ge­les Times

Los An­ge­les Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict and the union rep­re­sent­ing its teach­ers ended Fri­day with no deal in sight. All signs point to the first strike in 30 years in the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest school sys­tem.

Union Pres­i­dent Alex Ca­puto-pearl said that un­less dis­trict of­fi­cials make a sig­nif­i­cant new pro­posal, 31,000 teach­ers, li­brar­i­ans, nurses and coun­selors will strike Mon­day.

“Get ready,” Ca­puto­pearl said at a news con­fer­ence. “Be­cause on Mon­day we will go on strike for our stu­dents, for our schools and for the fu­ture of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Los An­ge­les.”

Fri­day’s was the week’s third ne­go­ti­at­ing ses­sion, and the dis­trict in­creased its of­fer based on the ex­pec­ta­tion of new money from Cal­i­for­nia Gov.

Gavin New­som’s pro­posed bud­get.

The lat­est of­fer would pro­vide a full-time nurse at ev­ery el­e­men­tary school and lower class sizes by about two stu­dents at mid­dle schools. It builds on a pro­posal from Mon­day, in which the dis­trict also of­fered a small de­crease in class sizes.

In Mon­day’s pro­posal, max­i­mum class sizes in grades four, five and six would­dropfrom36to35, and in high school from 42 to about 39. Schools with the most needs would see larger re­duc­tions — about four stu­dents per class. Also, ev­ery sec­ondary school would get a li­brar­ian, which some mid­dle schools do not have now. High schools would get an ex­tra aca­demic coun­selor.

“Ev­ery nickel that we’re re­ceiv­ing, we’re in­vest­ing in our class­rooms,” LA schools su­per­in­ten­dent Austin Beut­ner said at a news con­fer­ence. “This is not a con­ver­sa­tion about val­ues. We want the same sorts of things.”

Ca­puto-pearl dis­puted both those as­ser­tions. He said that the dis­trict’s of­fers were lim­ited to one year, after which class sizes could in­crease again and new staff could be cut. He also crit­i­cized the pro­posed class-size re­duc­tions as piece­meal and pal­try, say­ing the dis­trict could af­ford to do much bet­ter.

The union, United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les, says it’s fight­ing for smaller classes and schools that are “fully staffed” with nurses, li­brar­ian and coun­selors.

Beut­ner said bud­get con­straints limit the new hir­ing to one year for now. All told, the new pro­pos­als would spend $130 mil­lion on about 1,200 po­si­tions, he said.

The dis­trict did not change its salary of­fer of a 6 per­cent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year con­tract. The teach­ers are ask­ing for 6.5 per­cent that would be retroac­tive to a year ear­lier.

The su­per­in­ten­dent con­tin­ued to in­sist that the union has not ne­go­ti­ated in earnest. He said meet­ing all the union’s de­mands would cost $3 bil­lion and plunge the dis­trict into bank­ruptcy, which would prompt a state takeover.

“Show me the money, be­cause we’re spend­ing all we’ve got,” Beut­ner said.

“If UTLA can find more money, we’ll in­vest it in the class­room.”

“If they want a strike, they’ll have a strike.

“We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to avoid it.”

Beut­ner also called on New­som gover­nor to get in­volved.

When asked what form the gover­nor’s in­ter­ven­tion could take — more money, le­gal ac­tion, leg­is­la­tion, me­di­a­tion — Beut­ner said: “All of the above.”

He sug­gested that New­som put the two sides in a room and “lock the door and throw away the key if he has to.”

Nathan Click, a spokesman for New­som, said: “The gover­nor has been en­gaged in in­for­mal con­ver­sa­tion with par­ties on both sides. “Hav­ing been through strikes like this as a mayor, he is re­spect­ful of the process and hopes both sides can come to­gether be­fore Mon­day.”

Damian Do­var­ganes / As­so­ci­ated Press

Thou­sands of teach­ers marched in this De­cem­ber down­town Los An­ge­les rally. Even when a con­tract is agreed on, the school dis­trict must deal with deficit spend­ing due to pen­sions.

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