The contract-talk stalemate between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing about 35,000 teachers will move into a new phase Thursday when the sides are set to meet with a state-appointed mediator in hopes of reaching a strike-averting agreement.
A variety of contract issues are on the table, including reduction in class sizes and accountability for charter schools, but salary remains one of the top issues. The union -- United Teachers Los Angeles -- is asking for an immediate 6.5 percent salary increase, retroactive to July 1, 2016.
LAUSD officials have publicly said the district is prepared to strike a deal with UTLA echoing contracts already reached with other employee unions, which include salary hikes totaling about 6 percent over three years. In an Aug. 15 letter to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, Beutner wrote that the district "aims to reach a similar agreement with UTLA in this bargaining process."
The union, however, says that despite such public pronouncements, the district has never made any such formal offer to UTLA. According to UTLA, the district has formally offered the union only a 2 percent salary increase, retroactive to July 1, 2017, along with a one-time 2 percent bonus and a $500 stipend for classroom supplies.
District officials said the union's salary proposal would increase the LAUSD's existing $500 million deficit in the current school year by another $813 million. But the union says the district can easily afford more investments in salaries and classrooms, pointing to a recent audit indicating the district has nearly $1.9 billion in reserve funds.
The district contends its reserve funds are already being used to cover budget shortfalls, which are expected to continue over the next three years -- a claim also strongly disputed by the union.
UTLA's members have already overwhelmingly authorized a strike, but that possibility will remain on hold pending the mediation sessions and a subsequent fact-finding period if the mediation effort fails.