By Nathan Solis
LOS ANGELES – The second largest school district in the country may see a teacher strike early next year if no deal is reached with the teacher’s union, which announced a plan to walk after a report found the school district has $1.8 billion in reserves.
Union officials from United Teachers of Los Angeles said Wednesday more than 30,000 school employees will go on strike early next year if a contract agreement is not reached with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The district serves about 700,000 students at more than 1,000 schools spread across 720 square miles. Contract negotiations with about 30,000 employees who are part of a collective bargaining union have been stalled for over a year, and the employees plan to strike on Jan. 10 if an agreement cannot be reached with school administrators.
The school district meanwhile accused the union of bad-faith bargaining in a complaint filed with the state public employment board.
Earlier this week, a neutral factfinder released a report saying the district has $1.8 billion in reserves. Given that, the factfinder agreed with union representatives that new hires are in order, including nurses, librarians and other staff, and that class sizes should be reduced.
The factfinder also recommended a 6 percent raise, with 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2017, and another 3 percent from July 1, 2018.
In response to the report, the school district issued a statement announcing the union had accepted a salary increase proposed by administrators which could jumpstart stalled negotiations.
But on Wednesday, United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl called the statement “a bold-faced lie” that only exacerbates the tension of negotiations that have played out in the media.
“Unless there are dramatic shifts in approach in spending money on our students and saving our students, we will strike on Jan. 10,” said Caputo-Pearl. “If we strike, it will be a strike for our students and will be a strike for the parents.”
Following the union’s announcement, LAUSD shared a copy of the complaint it filed with the state board, which found the union did not bargain in good faith.
“UTLA said they have reviewed and considered the fact finding report and that they do not believe the findings of the report serve as a basis for resolving the bargaining dispute,” said the school district in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified does not want a strike – which only UTLA can authorize – because a strike would harm students, families and communities most in need.”
Superintendent Austin Beutner has said in negotiations the district could offer $30 million for staffing with input from the union on how that is spent, a 6 percent salary increase with no back pay and updates to contract language to address class size complaints.
This would be the first strike the school district has faced since 1989.