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L.A. teacher strike: Los Angeles district, union fail to hammer out deal

The union of 30,000 members serving a district of 600,000 students, has said it will strike as early as Thursday.
Image: Alex Caputo-Pearl
United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl, from center, joins teachers at a rally next to the Broad Museum in Los Angeles on Dec. 15, 2018.Damian Dovarganes / AP file

The Los Angeles teachers' union and school district negotiators failed to hammer out a deal on Monday to avoid a massive strike planned for Thursday.

The negotiations between the union — which is the country’s third largest, with 600,000 students — and the district will continue Wednesday, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said late Monday. Caputo-Pearl told reporters that a strike is still likely.

“We were surprised the district came in with so little to offer,” he said. “Unless something changes, there will be a strike in the city of L.A.”

In a statement, the Los Angeles Unified School District said it was “extremely disappointed” that the union rejected an offer to add 1,000 educators and increase funding for class size reductions and additional counselors, nurses and librarians at a cost of $100 million. The district did not specify how those positions would be divided among the various roles.

“A strike would harm the students and families we serve and will not help resolve the issues our District faces,” the district said.

The district and union are also expected in court Tuesday over the question of whether the union gave the legally required notice to call a strike Thursday.

The union, which represents more than 30,000 teachers and other school staff, has pushed the district to spend “a substantial” portion of a $1.9 billion reserve to reduce class size and hire more staff, among other demands.

During a news conference Monday, district superintendent Austin Beutner said hundreds of millions of dollars of that money was already being spent.

“The notion that we’re hoarding reserves” is not accurate, he said. “We’re spending all we have in service of our students.”

Beutner said the district also proposed forming a working group to address the union’s concerns over the growing number of charters schools, including how to improve oversight and how to reduce friction on campuses shared by charter and traditional public schools.

Last week, the district accused the union of refusing to resume contract negotiations after the release of a fact-finding report last month, NBC Los Angeles reported.

But the union countered that the details of that offer remained “unclear,” and that salary increases could require future health care cuts, the station reported.

In a statement Sunday, the union said an apparent injunction sought by the district could delay Thursday’s walkout, but that such a victory would be “fleeting” because “it will only delay UTLA’s right to strike by a few days.”

During the news conference, Caputo-Pearl said Thursday was still the union’s intended strike date.

A person who answered the phone at the district’s communications office could not immediately comment on the injunction.