The Los Angeles school district has made an offer to the teachers’ union in the hopes of averting a teacher strike—an across-the-board pay raise, smaller class sizes, and additional pay for teachers taking professional development courses.
But the United Teacher Los Angeles called the offer a “stunning example of disrespect” to teachers and students.
That exchange shows how high the tensions are as a potential strike looms in the nation’s second-largest school district. The union and the district have been in contract negotiations for over a year. They plan to start the formal mediation process, which is overseen by California’s Public Employment Relations Board, on Thursday. But last month, most Los Angeles teachers’ union members voted to authorize a strike, which some have predicted will come in early October.
The district’s offer seems to be a last-ditch effort to avoid that strike, which would be the first in Los Angeles since 1989.
The district offered a 6 percent pay raise for all teachers, which includes a 3 percent retrospective raise for the past school year. The district also pledged to reduce class sizes by four students in core subjects in 15 high-need middle schools and 75 high-need elementary schools. Finally, the district offered to provide additional pay to teachers who take courses in dual-language instruction, early-literacy intervention, and science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics instruction.
“While I wish our finances allowed us to go farther, this offer also makes the most of our limited dollars in support of students and schools, especially those with the highest needs,” said Kelly Gonez, a school board member, in a statement.
Union leaders called the offer “insulting.” The proposal does not make it easier for teachers to secure health care upon retirement, and the class-size reduction would not improve instruction at 90 percent of the district’s 1,000 schools, they wrote. The union is also seeking more school nurses, counselors, social workers, and librarians, and to reduce the number of tests required by the district. The district’s offer does not address those requests.
"[Superintendent Austin] Beutner’s proposal attempts to buy us off with a modest salary increase,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “But we can see through it. This is the beginning of the war on health care and an acceleration of a downsizing that will drive students and families away rather than attract them to the district.”
The previous district offer was a 2 percent raise and a 2 percent bonus. The union had sought a 6.5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 1, 2016. Still, observers say UTLA leaders have taken a cue from the wave of teacher walkouts in the spring and are focusing more on students’ needs.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.