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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/5/18

Second Largest School District Faces Teachers Strike

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"There is currently an effort to call for a strike that pits adults versus adults when students and their families will bear the brunt of a strike action."

- LAUSD School Board

Having gladly accepted the title of "a gadfly at the school board meetings", I have a natural tendency to be suspicious of the LAUSD's marketing materials. This is particularly true when the document is titled with the very 1984 sounding "Just the Facts." However, recognizing that the union's first priority is to represent the best interests of the teachers, I realize that their contract demands are not going to automatically line up with the needs of families. With this in mind, I dove into the gap that divides the two sides. I have broken the issues down by what the District states the United Teacher Los Angeles (UTLA) claims are:

(Image by LAUSD)   Details   DMCA
L.A. Unified won't schedule a mediation date and is stalling.

The District makes this statement without providing any reference to where they found the information so it is impossible to determine what the union actually said. However, the timeline of events does not seem to support the District's terminology.

In July, UTLA did formally declare that "contract talks between LAUSD officials and the teachers union had reached an 'impasse.'" According to the union, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) "confirmed that talks with the district are at a deadlock [and] appointed a state mediator." While initially "district officials disputed the claim that negotiations had reached impasse", their fact sheet states that they have now accepted PERB's findings and a mediation date has been set for September 27.

L.A. Unified is only offering teachers a 2% raise.

The LAUSD states in its fact sheet that they have already reached agreements with the three other major unions that "included raises totaling about 6%." It also states that "The Superintendent told UTLA in a letter dated August 15, that 'L.A. Unified aims to reach a similar agreement with UTLA in this bargaining process.'" The wording of this sentence is important because it weaves a public relations narrative without crossing the line into a lie.

During the negotiating process, only offers made during official bargaining sessions are binding. On July 24, 2018, the District officially offered UTLA represented employees "a 2% on schedule wage increase" plus a "2% off-schedule lump sum salary payment" and a "$500 stipend for supplies and/or instructional materials for use in their classroom during the term of this Agreement." The letter mentioned in the "fact" sheet is not in any way binding.

It should also be noted that last year the Board members received a raise of at least 174% and now make as much as $125,000 per year. Superintendent Beutner lead a study group that came to the conclusion that "LA Unified provides a higher average teacher salary and higher average healthcare benefits than do [unnamed] peer Districts." Despite not having any professional experience in education, Beutner has a base salary of $350,000. This was awarded to him after his supporters originally suggested to the Board that he would not take a salary.

L.A. Unified doesn't support smaller class sizes, more school librarians, nurses, and counselors.

Under the union's proposed contract, students would receive the following benefits:

The District says that it supports the union's initiatives but asks "where does the money come from to pay for this?" In other words, while they do not actively oppose these concepts, they also have not prioritized them in past budgets. Instead, the District spent $154 million to purchase and renovate its headquarters on Beaudry from "investors, which included the firm headed by billionaire and city schools activist Eli Broad". The Belmont Learning Complex project cost over $400 million after the District built (and rebuilt) the school atop an "allegedly toxic site". Over $1 billion was spent on the failed iPad project. The cost for the botched MiSiS system was north of $111.5 million and the Miramonte settlements cost students $139 million. The District also loses funding everytime they approve a substandard charter school.

L.A. Unified has $1.7 billion in unrestricted reserves.

The District's fact sheet claims that the reserve is actually $1.2 billion. According to the budget, it is actually $1,907,667,702.07. However, after subtracting off budget items, including a reserve for a potential salary increase, this reserve drops to $707 million. This assumes that the budget has been properly constructed. According to historical spending patterns, the District should spend about $350 million for textbooks and supplies. The latest budget allocates "more than $700 million for these materials." After scrutinizing the District over the last several years, it seems that a deficit is consistently forecast for the third year out only to eventually turn into a surplus as time passes. The stakeholders of the District would benefit greatly if UTLA takes up the District's offer to allow them "to audit the District financials".

UTLA supports Magnet schools.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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