L.A. District, Union Leaders Agree To Tentative Pact
Union leaders and district officials in Los Angeles agreed last week to a tentative three-year contract that would raise educators' salaries handsomely and give principals more power in assigning teaching jobs.
In a 12-hour bargaining session Jan. 22, Superintendent Roy Romer and President Day Higuchi of United Teachers Los Angeles personally pounded out the final details of the agreement, which would ultimately award teachers and other certified personnel average raises of 11 percent this school year, said John Terez, the vice president of the union.
Under terms of the pact, which still requires ratification by the school board and the union rank and file, salary negotiations for the following two years would be reopened as soon as the California legislature approved the state's annual budget. That action is expected within the next five months, Mr. Terez said.
The tentative contract also attempts to ensure that more students are taught by credentialed, experienced teachers, Mr. Terez said. If approved, principals could prescribe some teachers' work schedules. Currently, the choicest nine-month shifts in the year-round Los Angeles Unified School District go to those with the most seniority.
"Overall, this is one of the best contracts we've ever had," Mr. Terez said. "It has put teachers in a competitive position with other teachers in the county."
"We made real gains on doing a better job of managing the district," Mr. Romer added.
Superintendent Romer, the former Colorado governor picked to lead the nation's second-largest school district last June, anticipates that the school board will approve the contract, although by a narrow vote, next month.
Union members will likely ratify the proposal in a vote scheduled for Feb. 12-14, according to Mr. Terez.
Veterans Benefit Most
The district's 44,000 teachers had been working under the old contract since July 1, Mr. Terez said. UTLA members had threatened to strike Feb. 27 if an agreement had not been reached.
Under the tentative contract, teachers with more experience would reap a far greater proportion of the settlement. The salaries of beginning teachers who are fully credentialed would increase from $37,000 to $39,000 this year, Mr. Terez said. Those educators who have 30 years' experience and are at the top of the pay scale would be paid $70,000, up from $61,000.
The pay and benefits package would cost the district $249 million this school year, Mr. Romer said. The cost of the entire three-year package would be dependent on the negotiations following passage of the state budget.The 723,000-student district would probably have to cut spending in areas that have yet to be specified, and utilize some reserves to pay for the proposed raises, Mr. Romer said. The district's current annual budget is $8 billion.
In addition to the perceived win on salary issues, union leaders said they were pleased that talk of a merit-based pay system had been short-circuited during the seven months of negotiations.
The contract would instead authorize a voluntary pilot program that would award bonuses based on students' test scores. Each time individual students showed improvement on the state reading test, their schools would receive grants ranging from $40 to $80 per pupil.
Vol. 20, Issue 20, Page 3