Los Angeles Times

Calendar clash for union, LAUSD

Complaint demands dropping four extra school days approved by the district.

- By Howard Blume

In its first conflict under Los Angeles schools chief Alberto Carvalho, the teachers union has filed a complaint alleging that the district acted illegally in adding four days to the upcoming school year and is demanding that the optional days be rescinded.

The extended school year has emerged as a centerpiec­e for academic recovery and the pushback from the union represents a significan­t public dispute between the new administra­tion and the union. Carvalho became superinten­dent in February.

The extra school days are optional both for teachers and students and are scheduled at what district officials called “critical” points in the school year — at the 10-week semester mark and before final grades are due, for example. Classes will not meet in the regular format during

these days. Schools will tally students and teachers who either want to attend or take the day off. Administra­tors will then develop a plan to make the best use of the added instructio­nal time.

Although the extra days are optional, the district was required under state law to go to the bargaining table before approving them but failed to do so, the union asserts in the complaint.

“Educators are the ones in the classroom day to day, not Supt. Carvalho, yet they are being left out of conversati­ons on how to most effectivel­y invest in student learning,” Cecily MyartCruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said in a statement Tuesday announcing the filing. “Instead, the district has chosen to make hasty decisions that will have more negative consequenc­es for both educators and students.”

The district defended the process under which the extra days were approved.

“Los Angeles Unified has, and continues to, meet with UTLA to discuss work and academic calendars,” the district said in a statement. The extra work time comprises “purely optional days which afford teachers the opportunit­y to work with small groups of students who may need additional instructio­n. Additional pay will be offered to teachers choosing to participat­e. The district looks forward to further discussion­s with UTLA on this and other topics as we work together for the school communitie­s we serve.”

Educators and lawmakers who have approved billions of dollars in funding for pandemic academic recovery have touted an extended school year as one way to help among others, including tutoring, smaller class sizes, after-school programs and summer school.

A five-year study in New Mexico of an extended school year yielded mixed results for the seven participat­ing school systems. In the study, 25 days were added to the beginning of the school year for kindergart­en through third-grade students. Kindergart­ners benefited the most, as did students who worked with the same teacher both during the extra time and during the regular school year. The measurable benefits appeared to diminish somewhat over time. But significan­t numbers of students showed no benefit.

A recent review of 100 large and urban districts indicated that 44 referenced an extended learning year strategy in the 2021-22 school year.

“LAUSD’s attempt to get more time with students makes sense, especially given their recent news that 20,000 students are missing and 70% of their homeless students were chronicall­y absent last year,” said Bree Dusseault, managing director at the Center on Reinventin­g Public Education, a research organizati­on based at Arizona State University that conducted the review of school districts.

The Board of Education approved the extended school year in April. District officials had sought more additional days than they eventually settled on.

The board’s action included the addition of three optional paid training days for teachers. These, too, were improperly imposed, the union contends.

The union asserts that the money set aside for the longer school year, estimated at $122 million, would have been “better spent on programs proven to positively impact student learning.” Superior strategies would have included “establishi­ng smaller class sizes, hiring more counselors, psychiatri­c social workers and school psychologi­sts and investing in teacher developmen­t,” the union’s statement said.

The school system has budgeted for additional counselors and mental health workers, but cannot find enough qualified people to fill the positions. Other school systems report similar problems.

During his first back-toschool address, Carvalho said Monday that all employees deserve higher compensati­on, but did not go into specifics.

Looming in the background is another major issue — bargaining over the next full union contract. Members of United Teachers Los Angeles have been working under an expired contract since July 1. The union — which represents teachers, counselors and nurses — is calling for a 10% raise for each of the next two school years, starting this fall. The previous contract settlement was not reached until after a teachers strike in January 2019.

District officials have said they wanted to negotiate over a new and full labor agreement with teachers over the summer, but the union negotiatin­g team was not available then. The district has committed — to all employee unions — that it would maintain the current level of health benefits.

The filing of the complaint would not prevent the nation’s second-largest school system from carrying out its schedule as intended — pending an adverse future ruling.

The complaint, called an unfair practice charge, was filed Friday with the California Public Employment Relations Board, which would investigat­e the allegation­s. The union wants the labor board to advise — and, if necessary, compel — L.A. Unified to “immediatel­y” withdraw the four school days and three profession­al developmen­t days and “return to the status quo.” After that, the union said, the district could begin to “bargain in good faith over the amount and distributi­on of employee work days (voluntary and mandatory) and other consequent­ial terms and conditions of employment.”

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