LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing striking teachers are set to return to the bargaining table Thursday.
“We will be ready to bargain tomorrow and our team will work long and hard toward an agreement that benefits our students, members and communities,” said Arlene Inouye, the union’s bargaining chair.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office will facilitate the negotiations, according to a statement released Wednesday night.
The first teachers strike to hit LAUSD in nearly 30 years will enter its fourth day Thursday, with thousands of educators picketing for increased pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians.
United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl said support for the strike is growing among residents and parents.
“The public knows that it is unacceptable not to have full-time nurses,” he said. “It is unacceptable to have class sizes of 47. It is unacceptable to have teachers come in and then leave because the conditions are too hard and the pay isn’t enough. It is unacceptable to have charter schools pop up on every corner and drain resources from our public schools.”
The union has been calling for the hiring of more teachers and support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians, along with reduced class sizes.
The district’s most recent offer to the union was made Friday, with the package including, among other things, the hiring of 1,200 teachers, capping middle and high school English/math classes at 39 students, capping grades four through six at 35 students and maintain all other existing class sizes, adding a full-time nurse at every elementary school and another academic counselor at high schools. The increased staffing, however, would only be for one year, with the district saying the money to pay for the extra employees would come out of a one-time reserve.
“This represents the best we can do, recognizing that it is our obligation to provide as much resources as possible to support out students in each and every one of our schools,” Beutner said Friday.
UTLA rejected the offer, saying it did not go far enough to bolster school staffing, reduce class sizes and prevent them from increasing in the future. The union also blasted the district’s staff increase proposal for being only a one-year offer, and contended the district’s salary increase proposal is contingent on benefit cuts to future union members. The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6 percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract while UTLA wants a 6.5 percent raise that would take effect all at once and a year sooner.
The district claims the union’s contract demands would bankrupt LAUSD, but the union disputes that contention, pointing to what it calls an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund and insisting the district has not faced a financial deficit in five years. The district contends that reserve fund is already being spent, in part on the salary increase for teachers.
The second-largest school district in the nation, the LAUSD covers 710 square miles and serves more than 694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter schools, most of which are staffed with non-union teachers unaffected by the strike. The district says about 500,000 students are impacted by the walkout.
The district hired 400 substitutes, and 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials have been reassigned during the strike. The district has set up an information hotline for parents at 213-443-1300.
According to the LAUSD, at least 132,411 of strike-affected students went to class Wednesday, although figures from a dozen other campuses were still being tallied. That figure is a 22 percent drop from Tuesday’s revised attendance figure of 171,480. On Monday, the first day of the strike, 156,774 students went to class.
District officials said the absentee rate means a gross revenue loss of about $69 million in state funding, which is based on daily attendance. The loss is partially offset by millions of dollars in salaries that aren’t being paid to the striking teachers. Beutner estimated earlier this week that the district suffered a net loss of roughly $15 million on Monday alone.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)