UTLA members overwhelmingly approve agreement with LAUSD
Vanessa Romo | May 8, 2015
The school board is expected to rubber stamp the new deal at its next board meeting, on Tuesday.
Eighty three percent of union members — 25,300 people — participated in the ratification, with 97 percent voting to approve, the union said. An even higher percentage, 99 percent, voted yes to a two-year extension of the existing health benefits plan.
A UTLA official who was part of the team counting votes this afternoon, called the turn-out “amazing.”
“It’s one of the highest turnouts that UTLA has had in over a decade,” the official said, explaining that it’s “the result of numerous engagement efforts that began with the changeover in leadership and the campaign for Schools LA Students Deserve.
In addition to raises — the first in eight years — the contract also establishes a $13 million fund to hire more secondary school counselors to attain a newly-established 500-to-1 student-to-counselor ratio. But, the LA Daily News reports another $13 million that had been promised to teachers to reduce eighth and ninth grade English and Math classes, is not guaranteed, as UTLA members were told.
“The Collective Bargaining Agreement is good for educators and students— with class size caps, lower counselor to student ratios, improved learning and working conditions, and fair compensation,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “The Health Benefits Agreement extends fully funded healthcare benefits for all UTLA members and all our LAUSD labor partners. We are proud of our organizing efforts that led us here, but our work continues for the Schools LA Students Deserve.”
The language of the contract stipulates additional teachers and other class size reduction efforts will go forward only if the district has the money available.
By current budget projections the district is facing an estimated $127 million deficit, not counting the extra teacher expenditure.
In all, the agreement with UTLA will cost a total of $633 million over three years, plus an additional $31.6 million for several labor groups with “me too” clauses, also over three years, according to LA Unified officials.
The district had initially allocated $353 million for UTLA, which means the additional money from the state and from enrollment increases could be crucial to forestalling deficits in the years to come. Superintendent Ramon Cortines told board members that the district faces potential deficits as much as $559 million over two years through 2016-2017 if the additional state money is only a one-time occurrence.
*Adds comment from Alex Caputo-Pearl.