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Antonucci: Things you might not know about the Los Angeles teacher contract

Mike Antonucci | January 29, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.


The 40-page tentative agreement reached between L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles in the early hours of Jan. 22 has a lot of details and dense contract language. Teachers did not have much time to read and digest it before they had to vote, and most of Los Angeles was happy just to get them back to work.

Whether the contract is a good or bad deal for one side or the other is a value judgment that is now moot. Both sides agreed to it, and now we all will have to enjoy or live with the result.

UTLA members last week ratified the agreement, and the school board unanimously voted to ratify it Tuesday afternoon.

Behind the broad claims of what the contract does are some facts that haven’t been clearly highlighted in the reporting. For example, there are actually two tentative agreements.

This is important because of its effect — or more accurately, lack of an effect — on the current school year. The two sides signed a half-page agreement covering the 2017-18 school year and the current 2018-19 school year. It has only one new provision, which is the two pay increases on the salary schedule, three percent for last year and another three percent for this year. All the remaining language from the 2014-17 collective bargaining agreement remains unchanged.

UTLA deemed the removal of the class size limit exemption (Article XVIII, Section 1.5) necessary for the future of public education. The union did get it removed in its entirety, but that refers to the new contract. Section 1.5 is still in effect and will remain so until the new contract begins in July.

UTLA created a graphic to promote its achievement of reducing secondary English and math classes from a maximum of 46 to 39. “This is effective immediately,” it says. But that provision also belongs to the new contract and won’t apply until next school year. Teachers with 46 students will still have 46 students until then.

The new contract runs from 2019-20 through the 2021-22 school year. It reduces class sizes incrementally from their current maximums. Those maximums, however, were set through the use of Section 1.5, spelled out in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) the district and union signed in August 2017. In short, it will take until 2022 to institute the same class size limits bargained in 2015.

The first tentative agreement addresses salary but not class size. The second one addresses class size but not salary. There is no guarantee in the new contract for any salary increases for the next three years.

Either side can reopen negotiations on salary in January 2020 and January 2021, and we can fully expect UTLA to do so. Either side can also reopen two other provisions in the contract. It is much less likely, but the district could reopen class size.

The union received two joint committees, two task forces and the appointment of a “co-location coordinator” with input into the charter school co-location process. None of these has any special powers or veto authority.

The tentative agreement includes an MOU that allows 30 schools to apply to transform into community schools, which are schools that also provide a host of social services. The district will contribute an additional $400,000 in funding for each school over a two-year period. Part of that funding must go to hire a community schools coordinator, who will be included in the UTLA bargaining unit.

A key provision of the MOU is that community schools will be protected from reconstitution and charter co-locations, new or renewed.

We’re at the bottom line, so let’s mention the bottom line. By its own estimation, L.A. Unified will spend $403 million to hire additional employees during the three-year term of the contract.

*This article has been updated with the school board unanimously voting to ratify the contract.

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