LA Teachers’ Strike Set for January 10
by Michael Novick, UTLA-Retired
After 20 months of fruitless bargaining and lies and manipulation on the part of LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has announced a strike date of Thursday, January 10 unless there is a settlement as outlined in their contract demands.
UTLA is demanding that LAUSD immediately:
* use its $1.9 billion in unrestricted reserves to fund smaller class sizes; for more nurses, counselors, and librarians; and to fully fund our schools;
* commit to more support for special education, early education, bilingual education, and adult education;
* end the toxic over-testing of our students, not required by CA or the federal government;
* empower parents and educators at schools by means of stronger Local School Leadership Councils;
* address the charter industry drain that siphons more than $600 million from our schools every year.
Unless these issues are addressed effectively in a contract proposal from the district, educators will be on the picket lines beginning Thursday, January 10.
Working into the second school year without a contract, UTLA members have attempted to reach an agreement with LAUSD, but the district has repeatedly shown no interest. District officials have used every opportunity to undermine the union, hide basic data and financial documentation, and stop educators from talking to parents and the community. UTLA has filed multiple unfair practice charges against the district, but nothing has changed. The union doesn’t see LA Unified as a good faith partner in negotiations, and so has not accepted the district’s offer to go back to the table with LAUSD’s last proposal.
The neutral fact-finding report confirms three essential UTLA positions: That LAUSD has $1.8 billion in reserves (total is now $1.9 billion, about 25% of its budget); that LAUSD should increase staffing of nurses, counselors, and other professional staff; and that LAUSD should eliminate Section 1.5 of the contract (which allows the district to unilaterally increase class size).
“There has been one force at the bargaining table pushing to improve the educational experience for the 600,000 students in the district, and that has been UTLA and the parents and community standing with us,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “By dragging us through bad faith bargaining for 20 months and refusing to invest in our schools, the district has disrespected our students and disrespected us. We have exhausted our options.”
Beutner has yet to retract the claim he falsely made that a 6% salary agreement has been reached between LAUSD and UTLA. There is no such agreement. In September Beutner gave the media and later UTLA an unofficial offer of a 3% raise retroactive to July 1, 2017, and an additional 3% as of July 1, 2018, but that “increase” offer comes with unacceptable strings attached, including requiring more work hours for already overworked educators and making it harder to qualify for healthcare in retirement.
Concurrent with the strike announcement, UTLA filed another Unfair Practice Charge with the Public Employment Relations Board. The latest charge is for the district’s use of illegal intimidation tactics in issuing warning letters to employees, and for Beutner’s claim that there was a contract agreement when there is none.
In August, UTLA members authorized a strike with an overwhelming 98% yes vote—the highest strike authorization approval since UTLA was founded in 1970. If LA educators strike as expected on January 10, it will be the first UTLA walkout since 1989 and would underscore that public education has reached a crisis point. Years of underfunding, the unregulated growth of the charter industry, and district neglect have starved LA schools and students of necessary resources. More than 80% of LAUSD schools don’t have a full-time school nurse. LAUSD has among the highest class sizes in California, a state that has among the highest average class sizes in the nation (California is 48th out of 50 states in student-to-teacher ratios). Over-testing of students is crowding out instructional time and arts, music, ethnic studies, and science programs.
Austin Beutner was an investment banker with no education background. He refuses to use the district’s record-breaking reserve for basic student needs, and refuses to address the $600 million drained from local public schools by the corporate charter industry. Instead of reinvesting in our schools, Beutner is attempting to dismantle them, as he did with corporations, with his plan to break LAUSD into 32 “networks.” This so-called portfolio model has been unsuccessful in many cities, including Newark, New Orleans, and Indianapolis, where it has increased school closings, deepened segregation and disparities between schools, and compromised learning conditions.
“As was demonstrated when more than 50,000 people marched through the streets of LA on December 15, if we strike, it will be a strike for our students, a strike with our parents, and a strike for educational and racial justice,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We have watched underfunding and the actions of privatizers undermine our schools for too long. No more. Our students and families are worth the investment, and the civic institution of public education in L.A. is worth saving.”
Despite the Supreme Court Janus decision, which ended “agency fees” (requirement that non-members pay for collective bargaining contract representation and coverage), and which was intended to dismantle public employee unions by encouraging “free riders” who would pay no dues, UTLA has its highest percentage ever of dues-paying members among the teaching and counseling staff. Members voted to increase their dues last year. The union’s approach to social unionism, raising issues of community needs, social and emotional support for students, and an end to racist random searches of students, has galvanized not only its own membership, but community support from those who recognize the vital role public education plays. If you oppose the efforts of LAUSD and the development billionaires who tried to buy control of the school board to privatize the schools, supporting the teachers’ strike is a must.