LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing 33,000 teachers have reached an agreement on salaries, the district announced Dec. 18, but disagreements on issues such as class size and staffing levels remain on the table and could still lead to a strike.
The salary agreement came with the release of the report by a state-appointed fact finder, who was appointed when mediation failed to lead to a contract agreement.
The fact finder recommended — and the district and union have agreed to — a 6 percent salary increase, according to LAUSD. According to the report, 3 percent of that raise will be retroactive to July 1, 2017, and the other 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2018.
There was no immediate response from the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles. Its members have already voted to authorize a strike if an 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 stressed in the past that salary was only one part of the contract dispute. The union had originally 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; 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 Superintendent Austin 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.”
With the fact-finding report released, the union could technically move forward with a strike, which would be the first by LAUSD teachers since 1989. Union officials said over the weekend that if no agreement was reached, a strike could be called next month.
The district’s statement Dec. 18 stressed that a 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,” the district added.
This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers.