Los Angeles Unified Board of Education Unanimously OKs Contract with UTLA

The LAUSD teacher’s strike is over. A contract deal was reached and normal operations resumed the next day. Photo by David George.

On Jan. 29, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted unanimously (6-0) to approve the new contract with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). The contract includes a 6 percent salary increase for teachers, slightly reduces class sizes, and adds a “significant number” of librarians, counselors and nurses.

Superintendent Austin Beutner stressed that, “This contract is not the end; it’s the beginning.”

LAUSD officials announced on Jan. 29 that, “As part of its oversight of Los Angeles Unified, the Los Angeles County Office of Education approved the contract, but has released a letter underscoring the need for Los Angeles Unified to, ‘implement significant expenditure reductions and/or revenue enhancements that would stabilize the District’s financial position.’”

Recap

On Jan. 22, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced that, “Total gross revenue lost for the six days of the strike is $151.4 million, based on attendance numbers reported.”

The teachers and staff voted to approve the contract agreement, according to news reports. The two sides had met on Jan. 22 at Los Angeles City Hall and said they had forged a tentative agreement that provides a two-year bump in pay that totals 6 percent (retroactive for last year and this school year). Teachers and schools on Jan. 23 were returning to normal routines and operations, according to all accounts.

Now awaits perhaps the biggest challenge of them all: the LAUSD has to obtain new outside funds, in order to pay for the additional costs of the new contract. That likely means an increase in local property taxes, and a financial bailout from the State of California, according to various news reports. Given the arrival of the new Governor, additional state founds are a strong possibility.

In a related development, also on Jan. 22, in Denver, teachers there voted to strike for better pay. “Ninety-three percent of educators in the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which accounts for two-thirds of educators in the district, favored striking for better wages, union leader Rob Gould told reporters.”

The key points are:

  • Provides a 6 percent salary increase for educators.
  • Reduces class size and adds nurses, counselors and librarians.
  • Invests as much as possible while maintaining fiscal solvency.
  • Provides additional opportunities for collaboration between the school district and union.

Schools to Open on Wednesday Morning

The schools were open on Wednesday, “managed by skeleton staffs of administrators and employees who are not on strike, just as they were last week. More than two-thirds of students did not come to campuses during the first week of the strike,” noted the Times.

“Today marks a new chapter in public education for Los Angeles Unified,” said Superintendent Austin Beutner on Tuesday. “Public education is the ultimate labor-management collaborative and we are committed to working together to make sure every student gets a great education.”

Under the terms of the new contract, Los Angeles Unified agreed to:

  • Reduce class size by four students in grades 4 through 12.
  • Increase nursing services at every school.
  • Increase library services at every middle school and high school.
  • Add counselors at middle and high schools.

Los Angeles Unified and UTLA also agreed to work together through joint committees that will provide recommendations on a number of important issues:

  • Charter co-location.
  • Pay equity across adult, early education, Regional Occupational Centers/Regional Occupational Program.
  • English Learner Master plan including American Sign Language.
  • Green space in school campuses.

Key Issue of Having 1 Nurse in Every School Agreed To

According to the union website, “For the 2019-2020 school year, the district will hire 150 full-time nurse positions. For the 2020-2021 school year, the district will hire at least 150 full-time nurse positions, which will provide a full-time nurse at every school five days a week.”

Other Key Points Announced at Union Website

  • Class Size: Complete elimination of Section 1.5, which had previously allowed the district to unilaterally ignore all class size averages and caps. Reduction in class sizes by norm day is as follows and additional equity investment will reduce some class sizes throughout all 4 years:
  • 2019-2020 — reduction of 1 student, secondary cap of 39 for ELA and Math
  • 2020-2021 — reduction of 1 additional student (2 aggregate)
  • 2021-2022 — reduction of 2 additional students (4 aggregate)
  • Effective by norm day 2022, the district shall comply with the class size averages and maximums in Section 2.0.
  • Privatization/Charter Cap: The Board of Education will vote on a resolution calling on the state to establish a charter school cap and the creation of a Governor’s committee on charter schools at the next BOE meeting.
  • School Funding: UTLA, LAUSD and the Mayor’s office will jointly advocate for increased county and state funding. This includes but is not limited to funding for nurses, special education and community schools. The Mayor will also endorse the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative, and will work together with LAUSD and UTLA on advocating for the passage of this initiative.
  • Community Schools: By June 30, 2019, the district will designate 20 community schools. By June 30, 2020, the district will designate an additional 10 community schools. These community schools will have additional funding and UTLA positions, including a Community Schools Coordinator position. Local School Leadership Councils at community schools will have full discretion over all budgetary items outside of School Site Council.
  • Librarians: For the 2019-2020 school year, the district will hire 41 full-time Teacher Librarian positions. For the 2020-2021 school year, the district will hire at least 41 Teacher Librarian positions, which will provide a full-time Teacher Librarian at every secondary school campus five days a week.
  • Counselors: The district will hire at least 17 additional full-time Counselors by October 1, 2019, allowing the district to maintain a counseling service ratio of 500-1 per secondary school.
  • Special Education: 2 release days for testing, access to regular caseload reports, improved language on caseload caps, improved rights for SPED teachers.
  • Early Education Workday: All Early Educators will have an 8-hour workday inclusive of a 30-minute duty-free lunch.

Years of Underinvestment

“Forty years of underinvestment in public education cannot be solved in just one week or with just one contract,” Beutner noted. “Now that students and all educators are heading back to the classroom, we must focus our attention to properly fund our schools for the long-term.”

It should be noted, though, that, “Because negotiations took nearly two years, much of the new deal covers a time period that already is past. The agreement, if approved, will expire at the end of June 2020, meaning that it soon will be time to bargain again,” said the Times.

Impact of Events

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, LAUSD officials announced that 110,881, students attended its 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools. “This represents a 30 percent increase from Friday’s attendance. Today’s attendance number is incomplete, because 11 schools have yet to submit reports through Los Angeles Unified’s internal attendance system.”

Recap of Last Week

Last week, LAUSD announced it had already lost over $125 million to the labor dispute. That number should jump substantially this week.

Last Thursday, both sides returned to the bargaining table at City Hall even as the strike continued. LAUSD officials said they remain “committed to working around the clock to find a solution that ends the strike.”

The union is trying to rally other California school districts to join the fight. Other large-scale teacher strikes have occurred in Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and West Virginia in recent months,” UPI reported on Friday. “Educators in Chicago may be next—as teachers at four charter schools on Thursday set a strike date of Feb. 5 without a new deal. The strike would include 140 teachers and affect more than 2,200 students.”

Also on Thursday, LAUSD released the following details: “83,928 students attended Los Angeles Unified’s 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools as UTLA returned to contract negotiations. This represents a 37 percent decrease from yesterday’s attendance. Today’s attendance number is incomplete, because 10 schools have yet to submit reports through Los Angeles Unified’s internal attendance system. The adjusted number of students who attended school yesterday is 134,724. This number may still be subject to adjustment, based on additional reporting.’’

According to the LAUSD data, the average daily attendance revenues that are lost each day have ranged between $27 million and $28 million. The estimated total gross revenue lost for the first four days of the strike is $97 million. On Friday, however, LAUSD released a revised statistic that claimed that the total gross revenue lost for the first four days of the strike stood at $125.1 million, based on attendance numbers reported.

On Wednesday, less than one-third of students showed up at school, the “lowest number since the strike began, according to preliminary attendance figures,” said the Los Angeles Times.

Also on Wednesday, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and leaders from both sides who are involved in the teachers’ strike, announced Cynthia Butler, an information officer at the California Department of Education.

Background

All 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools continue to remain open and school buses are in operation. Student attendance remains well-below normal throughout the district. Meanwhile, teachers at three charter schools in Los Angeles also went on strike on Wednesday, reported the Los Angeles Times.

LAUSD officials announced last Monday, the start of the strike, that 8,560 students were transported on school buses to schools. “This represents nearly 40 percent of the average daily student ridership.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

LAUSD operates over 1,300 school buses, with contractors providing over 500 additional buses. Wikipedia notes that the district “operates almost as many buses as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.”

At a Tuesday morning news conference, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner urged teachers to return to their classrooms after almost one-third of students stayed at home the previous day, which cost the district a net loss of $15 million, officials said.

Because the district receives funding based on student attendance, “Beutner said the district lost about $25 million, and saved $10 million because of unpaid wages to striking teachers and staff who walked the picket lines on the first day,” reported the Los Angeles Daily News.

Times education reporter Howard Blume wrote on Wednesday, “there will be increasing pressure for the union to settle as teachers lose salary, L.A. Unified loses money and the thrill wears thinner for families worried about lost learning time and how to balance childcare with work, politics with pragmatism.

Ellen Morgan, LAUSD public information officer, told School Transportation News that, “All drivers reported to work, and all operations ran very well” on the strike’s first day. By Wednesday, she noted that, “We have experienced a slight decrease” in school bus pickups and operations.

However, she said student ridership was down by 62 percent on Monday, Jan. 14, as many parents chose to keep their children home, rather than face unknown classroom situations. “On average, we transport about 22,000 students daily, and today, drivers counted 8,600,” she told STN.

There were still the same number of routes, she reported, with no extraordinary issues or incidents arising so far.

It was also reported that LAUSD hired 400 substitutes, with about 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials reassigned to teach classes.

Daily updates on the labor negotiations are posted at LAUSD.net.

Profile of LAUSD

LAUSD has more than 694,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. The district covers 710 square miles, and includes Los Angeles, plus all or parts of 31 smaller cities, and several unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County.

However, according to Wikipedia, “During the 2016–2017 school year, LAUSD served around 734,641 students, including 107,142 students at independent charter schools and 69,867 adult students…. It is the second largest employer in Los Angeles County, after the county government. The total school district operating budget for 2016–2017 is $7.59 billion.”