Unionized teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are scheduled to begin voting Thursday in a strike-authorization vote as the union and district remain at loggerheads in contract talks.
The vote -- which does not automatically mean a strike will be called -- will come amid labor negotiations that have been pushed into state mediation, thanks to the union declaring an impasse in talks.
United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner met face-to-face last week. Beutner said later the pair found "common ground" and said the district continues to offer the union 2 percent raises over each of the next three years -- the same deal reached with other LAUSD employee unions. Beutner also said he was willing to meet with Caputo-Pearl again prior to a planned mediation session next month.
But Caputo-Pearl told the Los Angeles Times the district has been delaying mediation sessions, and accused Beutner of trying to "interfere with our strike vote."He also said the face-to-face meeting resulted in no indication the sides were getting closer to agreement, insisting "There is not the outline of a deal. Nothing could be further from the truth."
The district, in a statement issued Sunday, denied any effort to delay or avoid mediation.
"L.A. Unified has accepted Sept. 27, 2018, which is a date offered by the Public Employment Relations Board mediators in accordance with California labor law to resume bargaining," according to the LAUSD. "The district is waiting to hear from the mediators that the date is confirmed."
District officials also said it "agrees with UTLA" in concept on issues such as reducing class sizes and increasing staffing, but noted that it continues to face a roughly half-billion-dollar budget deficit during the urrent school year, and UTLA's contract demands would increase that deficit by $813 million.
The teachers union is calling for a 6.5 percent raise, along with steps to lower class sizes and increase the number of staffers such as nurses, librarians and counselors. It is also calling for a reduction in standardized testing and implementation of "accountability measures" for charter schools.
The union claims the district has $1.7 billion in its reserve fund that could be used to invest in classrooms. The district, however, insists its reserve fund is only $1.2 billion, which will be used to cover this year'roughly $503 million deficit, lowering the overall reserve to about $700 million.