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LA teachers' strike all but certain as union rejects district's latest offer

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 1/12/2019 By Howard Blume, John Myers and Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

a person sitting at a table © Provided by Local News RSS EN-US LOS ANGELES –– Negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing its teachers ended Friday with no deal in sight. All signs point to the first strike in 30 years in the nation's second-largest school system.

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said that unless district officials make a significant new proposal, 31,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors will strike Monday.

"Get ready," Caputo-Pearl said at a news conference. "Because on Monday we will go on strike for our students, for our schools and for the future of public education in Los Angeles."

Friday's was the week's third negotiating session, and the district increased its offer based on the expectation of new money from California Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed budget.

The latest offer would provide a full-time nurse at every elementary school and lower class sizes by about two students at middle schools. It builds on a proposal from Monday, in which the district also offered a small decrease in class sizes.

In Monday's proposal, maximum class sizes in grades four, five and six would drop from 36 to 35, and in high school from 42 to about 39. Schools with the most needs would see larger reductions - about four students per class. Also, every secondary school would get a librarian, which some middle schools do not have now. High schools would get an extra academic counselor.

"Every nickel that we're receiving, we're investing in our classrooms," LA schools superintendent Austin Beutner said at a news conference. "This is not a conversation about values. We want the same sorts of things."

Caputo-Pearl disputed both those assertions. He said that the district's offers were limited to one year, after which class sizes could increase again and new staff could be cut. He also criticized the proposed class-size reductions as piecemeal and paltry, saying the district could afford to do much better.

The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, says it's fighting for smaller classes and schools that are "fully staffed" with nurses, librarian and counselors.

Beutner said budget constraints limit the new hiring to one year for now. All told, the new proposals would spend $130 million on about 1,200 positions, he said.

The district did not change its salary offer of a 6 percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract. The teachers are asking for 6.5 percent that would be retroactive to a year earlier.

The superintendent continued to insist that the union has not negotiated in earnest. He said meeting all the union's demands would cost $3 billion and plunge the district into bankruptcy, which would prompt a state takeover.

"Show me the money, because we're spending all we've got," Beutner said. "If UTLA can find more money, we'll invest it in the classroom."

"If they want a strike, they'll have a strike. "We're doing everything we can to avoid it."

Beutner also called on Newsom governor to get involved.

When asked what form the governor's intervention could take - more money, legal action, legislation, mediation - Beutner said: "All of the above."

He suggested that Newsom put the two sides in a room and "lock the door and throw away the key if he has to."

Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom, said: "The governor has been engaged in informal conversation with parties on both sides. "Having been through strikes like this as a mayor, he is respectful of the process and hopes both sides can come together before Monday."

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(Taryn Luna contributed to this report.)

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

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