By Nathan Solis
Just before 30,000 teachers are set to walk out of classrooms in Los Angeles next week during a scheduled strike, the public school district asked a federal judge Thursday to grant an injunction that would keep teachers of special needs students available during the strike.
Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the country. Contract negotiations with the teacher’s union have eroded in recent weeks and the union set a Jan. 10 strike date after stalled negotiations.
About 700,000 students at more than 10,000 schools will be impacted by the strike. The United Teachers of Los Angeles said its union members want to see the school district use its $1.8 billion in reserves to reduce class sizes and bolster new hires including nurses, librarians and other staff. They’re also seeking a pay raise and a cap on public dollars that benefit charter schools across the district.
On Thursday, the school district filed its request to enforce a 1996 consent decree, which says special needs students have a right under federal law to receive special education and related services.
The decree was reached when the school district settled with parents and students who said that special needs students were being denied their education.
In their application on Thursday, the school district says the court should enforce the decree so certified classroom teachers, nurses, psychologists, counselors and other employees would be required to work.
There are more than 60,000 students who receive special education within the school district, according to the district’s application.
“In the event of a strike, these students’ health and safety would be in jeopardy,” the school district said in a statement. “They could get hurt, hurt themselves, or hurt others.”
The union called the district’s request for an injunction a fear tactic and a “move to use vulnerable students as pawns.”
“Going to federal court is a transparent attempt by LAUSD to bring the UTLA/LAUSD labor dispute into an arena where it doesn’t belong and to avoid the state agency (PERB) that governs such disputes,” the union said in a statement.
“We are confident that LAUSD’s legal arguments will not pass muster and an injunction will not be issued.”
The union and the school district have publicly traded barbs over the stalled contract negotiations and the district accused the union of bad-faith bargaining last month in a complaint filed with the state public employment board.
After a third-party mediator released a fact-finding report that agreed with some of the union’s demands, the school district announced that an agreement was reached, but union officials vehemently denied that claim.
Thursday’s application was filed with the Central District of California and labor talks are expected to resume on Monday in an eleventh-hour effort before the strike.