With no new talks, LA teacher strike now all but in­evitable

The Tribune (SLO) - - Espresso -

A teach­ers strike in Los An­ge­les, the na­tion’s se­cond-largest school dis­trict, is all but in­evitable start­ing Mon­day af­ter the two sides did not re­new ne­go­ti­a­tions over the week­end.

Talks broke down Fri­day when the teach­ers’ union re­jected as “woe­fully in­ad­e­quate” a new of­fer from the LA Uni­fied School Dis­trict.

With no new dis­cus­sions sched­uled, pick­ets are likely to be­gin at 7 a.m. as teach­ers stand firm on stick­ing points in­clud­ing higher pay and smaller class sizes.

Schools will stay open if a walk­out hap­pens. The dis­trict, with 640,000 stu­dents, has hired hun­dreds of sub­sti­tutes to re­place teach­ers and oth­ers who leave for picket lines.

The union has said it was “ir­re­spon­si­ble” to hire subs and called on par­ents to con­sider keep­ing stu­dents home or join marchers if a strike goes for­ward.

The dis­trict’s lat­est of­fer in­cluded adding nearly 1,200 teach­ers, coun­selors, nurses and li­brar­i­ans to schools, re­duc­ing class sizes by two stu­dents, and cap­ping class sizes to be­tween 32 and 39 stu­dents, de­pend­ing on age and cur­ricu­lum.

The of­fer also in­cluded the dis­trict’s pre­vi­ously pro­posed 6 per­cent salary in­crease over the first two years of a three-year con­tract.

The union, United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les, wants a 6.5 per­cent hike that would take ef­fect all at once and be retroac­tive to fis­cal 2017. Union of­fi­cials said some of the dis­trict’s pro­pos­als would ex­pire af­ter a year, call­ing it dis­re­spect­ful.

“We are at an im­passe,” union pres­i­dent Alex Ca­puto-Pearl said Fri­day.

Dis­trict of­fi­cials said it was imploring the union to re­con­sider, adding that it re­jected the new of­fer with­out propos­ing a coun­terof­fer.

“A strike will harm the stu­dents, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties we serve, and we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion with­out a strike,” the dis­trict tweeted.

Most of UTLA’s 35,000 mem­bers are ex­pected to join the work stop­page.

Abram van der Fluit, a Los An­ge­les teacher op­posed to the strike, said in a state­ment Sun­day that col­leagues who agree with him are “fear­ful” of speak­ing out against the union. He’s a for­mer UTLA mem­ber and cur­rently part of the Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers Em­pow­er­ment Net­work, which de­scribes it­self as a non­par­ti­san in­for­ma­tion source for teach­ers and the pub­lic.

“I don’t sup­port the ra­tio­nale for the strike as ar­tic­u­lated by UTLA,” he said. “I don’t be­lieve that the rea­sons for the strike should be our pri­or­i­ties, as teach­ers.”

Van der Fluit, a 20-year LAUSD vet­eran who teaches high school bi­ol­ogy, said the union should pri­or­i­tize other is­sues in­clud­ing cre­at­ing ac­cess to vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion classes and pro­vid­ing op­tions for stu­dents who want to pur­sue ca­reers that don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­quire a col­lege de­gree.

Much of the ac­ri­mony be­tween the dis­trict and the union cen­ters around the new su­per­in­ten­dent, Austin Beut­ner. The in­vest­ment banker and for­mer Los An­ge­les deputy mayor took the job last year with­out any ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion.

The union ar­gues that Beut­ner is try­ing to pri­va­tize the dis­trict, en­cour­ag­ing school clo­sures and flip­ping pub­lic schools into char­ter schools. Char­ters are pri­vately op­er­ated pub­lic schools that com­pete with the school sys­tem for stu­dents and the funds they bring in.

Beut­ner has said his plan to re­or­ga­nize the dis­trict would im­prove ser­vices to stu­dents and fam­i­lies.

DAMIAN DO­VAR­GANES AP

Alex Ca­puto-Pearl, left, pres­i­dent of United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les, joins teach­ers as they rally Dec. 15 next to the Broad Mu­seum down­town Los An­ge­les. A teach­ers strike in Los An­ge­les is likely to start Mon­day.

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