Teachers union leaders updating members on strike potential

UTLA Rally Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking LAUSD

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking to union members

No matter the state of contract negotiations between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, instructors are becoming more familiar with the possibility of a strike.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said in an interview today union officials are busy organizing parents, sending out negotiation updates and preparing school sites for the possibility that the district and the union reach an impasse in bargaining.

“I’m very confident we can organize ourselves to be a force,” he said, a reference to developing unity among union members. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts so far.”

Negotiators for the district and union have met several times to exchange ideas. So far, the union has rejected each of the district’s first two offers, calling the latest one “a non-starter.” The district has offered a 2 percent payment to teachers for last year, a 2 percent salary increase for each of the next two years and a 2.5 percent increase in a third year. The out years are predicated on district revenues.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

A bigger team for teachers union but no agreement in sight

Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA contract negotiations LAUSDThe latest LA Unified-UTLA bargaining session featured a change in tactics by the union but nothing close to an agreement.

The union brought all seven officers into negotiations yesterday, signaling a shift to what it calls “big bargaining.” And it’s likely to get bigger: The union said in a statement future bargaining sessions would include rank-and-file members as part of the bargaining team and parents and academics as observers.

Teacher unions in other cities, like Chicago and St. Paul, have used the tactic, ostensibly to demonstrate strength, unity and determination, in UTLA’s case, perhaps as prelude to a strike. For UTLA, the statement said, the idea is to put a focus on “smaller class sizes, full staffing, salary restoration and raises for educators, who have gone seven years without a raise, took furlough days and made other sacrifices during the recession years.”

“We know more money is coming into the district every year and there is no reason to maintain large class sizes,” the statement said. “The district wants us to be quiet on the class size issue. We will not. Nor will we drop our demand for fully staffed schools that provide social-emotional support for students and offer the arts and other electives that our students deserve.”

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on the change.

What it might achieve is unclear. The union is clearly unsatisfied with the district’s latest contract offer — a 2 percent bonus for last year, 2 percent salary increases for the coming year and the next and a 2 1/2 percent raise for the year after that, with the second two years conditional of the district’s financial situation.

The union has called that offer a “non-starter” and yesterday asked district negotiators “to explain their numbers in formulating the most recent offer.” The union is demanding a 17.6 percent salary increase over an undetermined number of years.

“In many ways, their offer represents a throwback to bad ideas the district had in past years that did not work,” Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in the statement.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for August 6th; a larger table may be necessary.

Previous Posts: LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract

LAUSD Teachers' salaries

Negotiators for LA Unified and its teachers union, UTLA, had planned to meet today to discuss a new contract for teachers, based on the district’s latest offer. The district described it as an improvement over the initial offer, but days before the offer was officially made, the union dismissed it as a “non-starter” and continued the threat of a strike. Meanwhile, courtesy of the LA Daily News, here’s a look at the rate of salary increase for LA Unified teachers over the last 10 years.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union; UTLA could start another academic year without a contract

Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsUTLA, the teachers union, has called LA Unified’s latest contract offer “a non-starter,” signaling a difficult resumption of bargaining when talks resume on Thursday.

“Just days before a scheduled bargaining session, LAUSD today presented UTLA with a revised contract offer that falls short of what is needed to achieve the schools that LA students deserve,” the union said in a statement issued late yesterday.

The union response came hours after LA School Report reported the district’s new offer — essentially a three-year deal with raises of 2 percent over the first two years and a 2.5 percent increase in the third year, with raises conditional on the financial state of the district.

The district’s first offer was a one-year deal with a 2 percent increase. Both offers included a 2 percent bonus for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Keep in mind educators have not had a salary increase in seven years and took what amounted to an eight percent salary reduction during the recession years,” the union said. “Throughout this period the cost of living has increased—putting an even greater burden on educators.”

The union’s salary demand has remained vague throughout, with leaders pressing for a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecified number of years. District officials say the pay raises offered amount to a compounded 8.6 percent increase over three years and, when factoring in health care coverage and other benefits, a 26.3 percent increase.

The new union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has also sustained his saber-rattling for a strike in recent days, urging teachers to start saving in case negotiators reach an impasse and union leaders call for a job action to gain leverage.

The union response, which dismissed other changes proposed by the district as not useful, including how teachers are evaluated, came only after details of the offer were made public. Union officials have had the contract offer for several days but remained silent.

Negotiators have scheduled a second bargaining session in early August, before the new school year starts, and another before the month is out. 

JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Vivian Ekchian Betty Forrester LAUSD

From left: Negotiators Vivian Ekchian, LAUSD; Betty Forrester, UTLA

In a new contract proposal to the teachers union, UTLA, LA Unified is offering a three-year package with annual raises of at least 2 percent and a plan to re-hire 3,000 teachers who have been laid off in recent years.

The latest offer adds two years to the length of the contract initially offered to the union and mirrors the deal offered to AALA, the administrators union: a 2 percent lump sum for 2013-14, a 2 percent raise over each of the next two years, and a 2.5 percent pay bump in 2016-17. 

District officials intend to present the latest terms to the union officials, including the chief negotiator, Betty Forrester, at a bargaining session scheduled for Thursday. Two more sessions are scheduled for August.  

The district’s chief labor negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, told LA School Report that she is eager to resume contract talks after nearly a month of inactivity. 

UTLA rejected the district’s opening proposal on May 26 without any debate, calling it “insulting.” The union has asked for a 17.6 percent raise over an unspecified number of years, following seven years without a salary increase.  

Ekchian says the more robust offer is not likely to be dismissed as quickly. “The past rejection was based on new contracts for just two years,” she said. “This is a four-year commitment.”

When compounded, the pay increases add up to 8.5 percent over the next three years, which would cost the district more than $353 million, she said. Including health benefits and other costs, the district says the the new reflects a 26.3 percent increase over current levels. 

Continue reading

McKenna is the union candidate, but CTA gave to Johnson backers

AAVREP JohnsonCalifornia’s biggest teacher union contributed $20,000 to an organization that is a major supporter of the LA Unified school board District 1 candidate that UTLA is trying to defeat.

According to the California Secretary of State, which tracks political contributions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) gave the money to the African American Voter Registration and Education Project (AAVREP) in June of last year.

AAVREP, a Super PAC founded in 2002 by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has spent over $114,000 in independent expenditures on behalf of Alex Johnson, a strong supporter of charter schools who is running against George McKenna, whose only independent expenditure group for the Aug. 12 runoff election is the PAC for the LA teachers union, an affiliate of CTA.

Johnson works for Ridley-Thomas as an education advisor.

The Project says it’s the largest organized effort targeting African American and urban voters in California, registering more than 175,000 voters over the last 20 years. Its goal is to increase political participation among African American and urban voters.

Since CTA made the donation to AAVREP, the group has also spend money to support Wendy Gruel in her mayoral campaign and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. 

“Educators believe it is extremely important for citizens who are eligible to vote do so in order to make their voices heard,” said Claudia Briggs, a spokeswoman for CTA. “This is why from time to time we support voter registration projects around the state.”

Previous Posts: UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race; Vote-by-Mail request for District 1 school board starts today; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

At AFT convention, teachers union expected to fire up the base

Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten, AFT President

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) kicks off its annual convention in downtown Los Angeles tomorrow bringing more 3,500 national union delegates to the home of LA Unified, the second largest school district in the country.

On the agenda: fending off what the union sees as its biggest threats, including billionaire money, an assault on tenure, and the “pervasive fixation on testing over teaching and learning,” according to a union press release.  A proposed hike in union dues is also on the table.

It is less clear whether the delegates will seek a resolution asking for the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as its counterpart, the National Education Association, did at its convention last week.

The gathering is attracting political and union heavy weights: AFT President, Randi Weingarten will deliver the keynote address Friday morning, following a speech by Governor Jerry Brown. Other speakers include Mayor Eric Garcetti, and California State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson, a teachers union ally who is facing a November re-election fight against education reformer Marshal Tuck.

AFT is the second largest teachers union in the country, representing 1.5 million teachers, health workers and school-related personnel nationwide.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the newly installed president of the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA) will lead a panel on social movement unionism that will include teachers union leaders from Chicago, St. Paul, and Philadelphia.

“It will be about how to take on some of the challenges that unions are facing by building a broader alliance with parents and community all around the quality schools agenda,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report.

“Obviously we’ll get to talk about some of the dilemmas we face in Los Angeles, like the billionaire funded Vergara lawsuit, as well as some of the problems with Superintendent John Deasy putting forward an unacceptable offer around pay,” he said.

The union is currently in contract negotiations with the district but appears to be at an impasse. UTLA leaders flatly rejected the district’s recent proposal of a 2 percent raise for 2014-15 plus a retroactive 2 percent bonus for 2013-14, calling it “insulting.”

Meanwhile in a letter to members posted on the convention website, AFT President Weingarten explained why she is recommending a dues hike, taking members’ annual contribution from the current $213 to $225 a year by 2015.

Continue reading

Strike talk emerges on Caputo-Pearl’s first day as union chief

Alex Caputo-Pearl new president of Los Angeles Teachers Union

Alex Caputo-Pearl new president of the United Teachers Los Angeles

Alex Caputo-Pearl today assumed the office of President of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), a union battling with LA Unified for a larger salary increase than the two percent the district has offered.

UTLA remains one of the last of the district’s labor partners to reach agreement on a contract. The teachers had initially asked for a 17.6 percent raise, spread over an unspecified number of years. Negotiations continue, but there’s no clear indication an accord is anywhere in sight.

That’s especially problematic in that Caputo-Pearl, who spent his first day on the job in Denver, attending a National Education Association meeting, often suggested in campaigning for the presidency that he’d be willing to take the teachers on strike if a fair bargain is not reached.

And the possibility arose again today in a press release from the union.

It said Caputo-Pearl and his new team of officers are “hitting the ground running” on policy initiatives, which include “organizing members school-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and area-by-area to a place where we can strike if we feel it is necessary” to achieve other gains, such as smaller classes, pay increases, additional school staffing and elimination of “gotcha” evaluations and “teacher jail.”

The possibility of a walkout came up later in the day in a statement from the union, expressing support for SEIU Local 99, the school support staff union, which is waiting to finalize its contract offer. The district has proposed $15 an hour for all workers who make less and a 6.64 percent increase over three years for workers who make more than $15 an hour.

In its words of support, UTLA said, “UTLA stands with the LAUSD school employees who have demanded, and who deserve, to be paid a living wage.  This is a symbol of respect for people who work directly with students every day.  UTLA members, over decades, have participated in coalition strategy meetings and walked on picket lines in support of workers’ struggles from all sectors for the living wage.”

Caputo-Pearl was unavailable for comment. A union spokeswoman said his schedule in Denver precludes it.

Previous posts: JUST IN: Caputo-Pearl wins decisively for UTLA president, Teachers union set to demand salary hike of 17.6 percent

Commentary: Vergara decision on tenure — and our union

Teacher tenure LAUSD Vergara

Cartoon by David Granlund

By Ron Taw

I came to education out of the business world. Before entering the classroom, I was making my way up the corporate ladder at a Fortune 500 company. But then, over 15 years ago, I realized that I wanted a job where “success and advancement” would mean changing more lives, not just earning more money.

That’s why I came into teaching, and why I stay. So as someone who deeply loves his job and his students, I am disappointed in the reactionary response of many of my colleagues to the ruling in Vergara v. California, in which California’s teacher tenure laws were ruled unconstitutional.

Rather than an attack on teachers, Vergara has given us an opportunity to completely rethink the systems of teacher tenure, support, evaluations and lay-offs. When I received tenure, it was the result of an arbitrary and opaque process, divorced from my work in the classroom helping students. At the moment, tenure remains the only official milestone for most teachers’ careers. So rather than an empty stamp, we want tenure to be meaningful, impactful, and part of a career-long system of professional development.

This ruling presents a rare opportunity for actual classroom educators to own our profession and lead the nation in creating an innovative, student-focused and teacher-driven system for how we hire, evaluate and retain educators.

The impending wave of retirements and decline in new teacher credentials being issued means we have to do something new to ensure that we are not facing understaffed classrooms in the coming years. Changing tenure is not the silver bullet, but it can be a key part of the solution.

Continue reading

At midday rally, teachers union insist on cut of new state money

Alex-Caputo Pearl Union Rally at LAUSD School Board Meeting teachers union

UTLA incoming-president Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks at a union rally.

As a prologue to today’s LA Unified board of education meeting, UTLA members rallied outside of LA Unified headquarters calling for a double digit raise, especially after the state Legislature approved the largest budget in state history.

“Even more money than what they prognosticated in May is coming in [to our schools],” President-elect, Alex Caputo-Pearl told union members.

The $108 billion budget was approved on Father’s Day. While it increases funding to education, it remains unclear how much more money LA Unified will get.

“So how is it possible that we are not seeing the offer that we need from LAUSD?” Caputo-Pearl asked the crowd, which booed in response.

“We need a pay restoration and raise for our folks. It’s the respect they deserve,” he added.

Captuto Pearl said he’ll call on the board to “do what other districts throughout the state have been doing for the past year,” a request to give teachers and other UTLA members a meaningful raise that more than makes up for pay cuts the union accepted to “keep the district afloat” during the recession.


Labor groups split on support for McKenna and Johnson in runoff

Alex Johnson and George McKenna LAUSD election runoff

Alex Johnson (left), George McKenna (right)

The battle for LA Unified’s open District 1 board seat is playing out not only among voters in the district, but also within the city’s labor unions.

Both candidates in the Aug. 12 runoff, George McKenna and Alex Johnson, have drawn considerable labor support. But a substantial split suggests that this is a typical election pitting labors groups that favor reform policies against the teachers union.

McKenna, the former administrator, would appear to have an advantage within the LA Unified family. He has been endorsed by two of the district’s three major labor partners — the teachers, UTLA; and the school administrators, AALA.

Johnson, an aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has the support of the third, SEIU Local 99, as well as endorsements from 15 other locals, representing a variety of trades, including fire fighters, teamsters and probation officers.

A bigger prize awaits, if it is offered. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for more than 300 locals, representing about 600,000 workers, has scheduled an endorsement committee meeting for July 10 to determine which of the candidates the union might endorse.

And might, is the key word.

The AFL-CIO withheld endorsing anyone in the primary, and any recommendation from the committee would go before the membership on July 21.

“It’s not common for the delegates to overrule the decision,” said Rusty Hicks, the group’s political director. “But it can.”


Teachers union planning a salary rally at LAUSD board meeting

UTLA logo teachers unionThe LA Unified board meeting on June 17 might be more crowded than usual.

UTLA, the teachers union, is planning a noon press conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters and handing out leaflets to call attention to the board’s demand for “a fair pay raise” for the coming years.

The union’s activities come at a precarious time. The 2014-2015 budget is almost complete, pending a final review and vote by the board, which is scheduled for June 24.

At this point, the district has offered the teachers a 2 percent raise for the academic year just ending, and another 2 percent for the coming year. By contrast, the union is demanding a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecific number of years.

The distance between them and the number of days left before the budget has to be completed, about two weeks, suggests that teachers might begin the new school year under salary terms of the old school year.

The union says in an advisory on its website that members will attend the meeting to demand “a fair pay raise that respects educators’ work and our financial sacrifices during the recession” and “authentic resources and support for our schools—such as lower class size and direct services to students—instead of (Superintendent John) Deasy-driven priorities and more out-of-classroom positions.”

The board is allowing 30 people to appear at the meeting to argue their case. If enough union members get there in time, they can grab all the slots.

UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race

George McKenna LAUSD

George McKenna


The LA teachers union, UTLA, voted last night to endorse George McKenna for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat in the August runoff election.

McKenna, a retired administrator, had no direct ties to the union and in his winning primary campaign struck a note of independence in assessing various issues.

But in the end, said Marco Flores, chairman of the union’s political action committee, PACE, members of the union’s House of Representatives “overwhelmingly” preferred McKenna over Alex Johnson, a legislative aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for two reasons.

First, Flores said, McKenna “stood with us” in the aftermath of the Miramonte child abuse scandal, openly opposing Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to pull all teachers out of the school.

“That was inhuman and degrading, and that stuck with our teachers,” Flores said. At the time, McKenna was a superintendent for a region that included Miramonte.

The other reason, Flores said, is that McKenna has emerged as the District 1 community’s favorite, by virtue of his many years as a school administrator and his strong victory in the primary last week. He won with 43.7 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 24.4 percent.

In the primary, the union had endorsed three teacher candidates — Sherlette Hendy-Newbill, Hattie McFrazier and Rachel Johnson — but none of them reached double figures in percentage of the vote. The union supported each with a $1,100 campaign contribution, the maximum, and Flores saids McKenna would get $1,100 from UTLA, as well.

Flores said that a motion was raised tonight to not endorse anyone in the runoff. “But that,” he said, “was overwhelmingly defeated.”

Flores described McKenna as “the choice of the community” and as someone who would work smoothly with the union’s new leadership team “which is all about grass roots.” President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl takes over on July 1.

“It was a natural conclusion,” Flores said. “We stand for community.”

He also said some members held it against Johnson that the majority of independent expenditure money spent on behalf of his primary campaign, more than $54,000 of $80,000, came from a group affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association.

But the choice was more a pro-McKenna vote than anti-Johnson, Flores said.

“Alex is bright, articulate and intelligent,” Flores said. “He’s a good politician. But at this point, we don’t need a politician. We need an educator.”


Adds campaign contribution information.

UTLA wants more than 8 percent, or else (maybe a strike)

UTLA Rally for 8 percent teacher raise LAUSD

Alex Caputo-Pearl (left) and Warren Fletcher (right) at UTLA rally

In a show of unity, UTLA‘s current and incoming presidents waved the prospect of a teachers strike in the coming school year if LA Unified offers anything less than an eight percent raise for the next school year, building to 17.6 percent in years to follow.

Appearing together at an afternoon news conference yesterday, Warren Fletcher and his in-coming successor, Alex Caputo-Pearl, rejected the district’s opening offer of a 2 percent bonus for the current school year plus a 2 percent raise for 2014-15. They said teachers in the first year of a new contract are entitled to at least the same pay level they had in 2008.

Their target is an overall 17.6 percent increase although it’s still unclear over how years they want to reach that level.

Fletcher, who is serving his final month as head of the nation’s second largest local teachers union, contended that a genuine offer by the district would need to reflect the concessions made by teachers and health and human services professionals during the recession.

“Anything less than 8 percent is still working toward restoration,” Fletcher said, to a cheering crowd at UTLA headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. “It’s still working toward breaking even and if we got to that, it still wouldn’t change the fact that during the years of the recession, the cost of living continued to increase.”

Continue reading

Hendy-Newbill gets a boost with endorsement from Ravitch

Sherlett Hendy-Newbill

Sherlett Hendy-Newbill


While UTLA, the Los Angeles teachers union, has endorsed three candidates in next week’s District 1 school board race, one has emerged as first among equals.

Sherlett Hendy-Newbill has won the endorsement of the Network for Public Education, a public education advocacy group led by Diane Ravitch, one of the strongest voices in the country opposed to standardized testing and charter schools.

The group said it was endorsing Hendy-Newbill, an LA Unified high school teacher and basketball coach, because “of her commitment to high quality neighborhood schools.”

“She’s aligned with what we do,” said Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network. “She’s against privatization, and she has great views on testing and how it should be used. She’s a strong voice, and she’ll stand up tom people on the board.”

In endorsing Hendy-Newbill, Hattie McFrazier and Rachel Johnson, UTLA contributed the maximum, $1,100, to each of their campaigns — a gesture more symbolic than significant. By its even-handed approach, the union is demonstrating no unusual zeal for any of them.

All three are trailing in the money race, well behind the leader, Alex Johnson, who has raised more than $208,000. McFrazier has raised $16,428; Hendy-Newbill, $14,927; and Rachel Johnson, $9,650.

Ivano Newbill, Hendy-Newbill’s husband and unofficial campaign manager, said his wife is spending the final days of the campaign knocking on doors, handing out fliers and overseeing a phone bank— none of it with any official help from UTLA.

“We’re trying to get her message out that kids come first,” he said in an interview. “No corporations. No entities. Nothing of that nature. Kids, the community and teachers come first.”

Newbill said the campaign goal is to finish as one of the top two, then take her chances in the August runoff.

*Adds comment from Robin Hiller.


JUST IN: LAUSD offers teachers 2 percent raise, union insulted

Teacher Salaries UTLA LAUSD teacher raiseLA Unified has opened contract negotiations with the teachers union, UTLA, offering a 2 percent raise for all teachers for the current school year, and another 2 percent increase next year.

The union immediately dismissed the offer in a news release, calling it “far short of what educators deserve after seven years without a pay raise and unabated increases in the cost of living.”

“Earlier this year, the LAUSD School Board saw fit to give Superintendent John Deasy the equivalent of a 15.8 percent raise,” Warren Fletcher, the out-going union president, said in the release. “Now they offer classroom teachers a two percent one-time payment? This is nothing short of an insult to every teacher and health and human services professional in LAUSD.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the in-coming president, said, “We urge LAUSD to come to the table with the recognition that our educators are the essential backbone of our public schools and that real respect given to educators translates into meeting the needs of students, schools, and communities.”

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on on-going negotiations.

The contract offer, which was approved by the school board in closed session on May 20 and presented three days later, comes amid a cross-current of fiscal developments at the city and state level as California climbs out of a long recession.

Continue reading

Teachers union approves online voting by overwhelming majority

UTLA approves online voting LAUSD* UPDATED

With an overwhelming majority, members of the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA) have approved an online voting ballot initiative that will change how the Los Angeles teachers union elects its own leadership.

The initiative was launched last year by two teachers who were fed up with the low turnout among the union’s rank and file. “This is a sign of a new type of unionism, where activism and organization can be part of our daily lives, rather than something we only do at certain times of the year,” Megan Markevich, a middle school English teacher and one of the sponsors told LA School Report. “That will be how teachers affect positive change for students and schools in LA:  by participating in decisions that have the power to change our district for the better.”

The measure passed with 77 percent of the UTLA membership supporting it.

It’s highly unusual for policy at UTLA to be initiated by ballot measure. The online voting measure is one of only three initiatives ever passed by the union. When the measure reached the membership floor in a meeting last fall, it was killed for fear that it would disrupt elections taking place this year for UTLA president and other leadership jobs.

Backers then had to gather 500 new signatures to get it back on the ballot. “It was really difficult sometimes to see this through and I understand now why some of the best and brightest teachers stay away from union activism,” said Markevich.

The new online voting system will make the most recent internal elections, in which Alex Caputo-Pearl and his Union Power slate that swept into office in March, the last to use paper ballots.

In announcing the results of the vote, which was conducted by paper ballot, UTLA said 8,915 of its members voted. That’s about 28 percent of the membership, a small improvement over the 7,235 (23 percent) who voted in Caputo-Pearl’s runoff victory over incumbent Warren Fletcher last month.

“I hope we continue the dialogue on how to increase member participation,” said Linda Yaron, a 12th grade English at the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities and a UTLA Chapter Chair who worked to help the measure pass. “Low voter turnout rates are a symptom of a larger issue of member engagement. It’s important that we next examine the causes of low participation and explore how to get more voices of our teachers heard so that the union truly represents those it serves.”

* Adds updated response from Megan Markevich and Linda Yaron

Analysis: LA Unified still waiting for an opener from UTLA

UTLA logoConspicuous by their absence from last week’s school board meeting were representatives from UTLA, the teachers union, discussing a new contract.

While many of the labor partners who work with LA Unified have begin contract talks or submitted their opening proposals, UTLA has maintained radio silence. At least, that’s how it appears to the public.

The only outward suggestions that union officials have been thinking about their demands was President Warren Fletcher’s pronouncement that he wants a 17.6 percent raise for his teachers, who have been without a contract for quite a few years.

Two problems here: One, the union never stipulated whether the demand is for one year, three years or 17 years. Two, Fletcher is a lame duck, who’s three-year term in office ends June 30.

As the in-coming chief, Alex Caputo-Pearl can’t do anything officially until he assumes power on July 1. Meanwhile, he has been meeting privately with school board members, presumably to exchange ideas of what’s possible in a new contract.

There has been lots of talk that recent improving economic conditions could mean a windfall for the union. The state is sending more money to the district through local control funding, another $1 billion or so over the next seven years. The biggest chunk comes right away, 28 percent, with smaller amounts over the succeeding years.

Continue reading

Another week, another LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD School Board Meeting 5-20-14It’s hard to believe after last week’s marathon 10-hour session, but LA Unified school board members will be meet again tomorrow with a full agenda.

Most of the issues before the board are much less contentious than those addressed a week ago. They include:

  • Board member Bennett Kayser’s effort to form a task force charged with replacing the district’s potentially asthma-triggering cleaning supplies will come up for a vote.  It is the only resolution for action on the agenda.
  • A plan for a different task force will be introduced by Monica Garcia. This time one that, if passed, would develop a district-wide plan within three months for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education to be implemented in the Fall of 2015.
  • And Steve Zimmer has drafted a motion for phasing in the data resulting from the administration of the Smarter Balanced tests now that LA Unified “will sunset the use of API scores as a measurement and evaluation tool for schools communities and all other assessment purposes.”

In a closed session meeting the six members will address the usual: existing litigation, personnel dismissals, and student discipline cases. They will also meet with representatives of various labor groups who are entering into negotiations with the district on new collective bargaining contracts. Among them are the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), Los Angeles School Police Association (LASPOA), Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU), and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

After the meeting, the same board members will reconvene in the afternoon. for a special joint meeting of Committee of the Whole and the Adult Education Committee of the Los Angeles Community College District.

Much of the discussion will focus on Assembly Bill 86, an effort to coordinate public schools and community colleges to serve the needs of adult education students.

For board agenda, click here.

For board materials, click here.

UTLA could start another academic year without a contract

UTLA logoDespite a state budget deadline looming, it’s possible that LA Unified teachers will start yet another school year without a new contract.

The district’s proposed spending budget for 2014-15, which must be approved by the school board and submitted to the state by July, includes a line item for teacher raises that remains to be negotiated with UTLA, as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.

However, Vivian Ekchian, the district’s chief labor negotiator told LA School Report, “While it is a goal, it could turn out that we do not meet that deadline.”

“We will do our best to meet it and work with our parters,” she continued, “but it may not happen.”

The absence of significant progress on a new contract comes in the shadow of developments in New York City, where 110,000 members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) last week agreed to an historic a nine-year contract, pending ratification, that includes raises of 1 to 3 percent over the next four years, two years of retroactive pay raises of 4 percent and a one-time bonus of $1,000.

The teachers there had been without a contract since 2009.

The UTLA bargaining committee met with district officials on April 22, but Ekchian reports nothing concrete was discussed.

“At this point we only know they want a 17.6 percent raise but we don’t know over how long. And other than that we don’t really know what else they want,” she said.

Unlike AALA, the administrators union, and the LA School Police Management Association (LASPMA), UTLA has not submitted an initial contract proposal. The next meeting between district and UTLA officials is expected in June.

Betty Forrester, a UTLA vice president who is the union’s chief labor negotiator, did not respond to an email message seeking comment. UTLA’s last contract with LA Unified expired in 2011, with the terms extending on a day-to-day basis.