LA Unified reiterates: UTLA demands would lead to cutbacks
Vanessa Romo | October 23, 2014
In the first contract talks under LA Unified’s new superintendent, Ray Cortines, negotiators for the district and the teachers union, UTLA, hit another snag yesterday as the district reasserted claims that unions demands are unsustainable and would lead to severe cutbacks to key programs, resources, and personnel that would detrimentally impact students.
The union is calling for a 10 percent salary bump for 2014-15, with the expectation of re-opening pay negotiations next year. Smaller class sizes, salary raises and an end to teacher jail are among key components the union is seeking it its new contract.
“Our budget calculations show that the proposal would cost more than $800 million in 2015-16,” said Vivian Ekchian, the district’s Chief Labor Negotiator. “Combined with a projected $365 million deficit next year, agreeing to the union’s proposal would deal a devastating blow to the District’s educational programs.”
The union’s new wage demand exceeds the district’s standing offer of a 6.64 percent salary increase over the next three years plus a one-time 2 percent bonus.
Another topic UTLA returned to during talks yesterday was the issue of “teacher jail.”
The union wants the district to roll back the current policy, which yanks teachers under investigation from the classroom regardless of the type of charges against them. A more fair system, the union argued, is to remove only those teachers facing allegations of sexual misconduct, physical violence, or other serious criminal acts from classroom assignments, while teachers with performance, competence or judgment issues be allowed to stay in the classroom.
“The District will examine this proposal from the lens of our students’ safety and well-being,” Ekchian said.
The session included a “guest speaker” on the union side. Judith Perez, president of the Associated Administrators of of Los Angeles, the principals and school administrators union, which does not agree with UTLA on every issue. Her topic, according to the UTLA website, was “the need for more collaboration.”
Noting a new sense of urgency to get a deal on salary increases for teachers by winter break, the district suggested expedited bargaining sessions and leaving all non-economic issues open for discussion until the start of 2015.
While UTLA agreed to meet three times over the next six weeks, starting Nov. 6, the union offered no public response to the district’s position that new demands are fiscally unsound.
And it remains unclear what, if any progress, might be made in the coming weeks. The union has already planned a day of action on Nov. 20, which suggests that the union does not foresee concluding a deal any time soon.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who delivered a speech about a post-Deasy LA Unified on Wednesday, told LA School Report that UTLA’s action days are unrelated to the negotiation process.
“What UTLA is doing is mending a lot of the divisiveness and the polarization that some of the powers that be in the city — former Mayor (Antonio) Villaraigosa, John Deasy, and Eli Broad — created,” she said.
“So the unions push to have these kinds of actions is a very important part of being a part of the community,” she added.