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Antonucci: UTLA is already planning to spend Measure EE money twice

Mike Antonucci | May 7, 2019

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*Updated May 8

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

Measure EE, the proposed L.A. Unified parcel tax on the June 4 ballot, has a steep hill to climb. It needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and a wide assortment of business groups have lined up to oppose it. What’s more, a last-minute change to the measure’s ballot language has prompted a legal challenge.

The Yes on EE campaign has many advantages, though. Supporters include the region’s major labor groups — including United Teachers Los Angeles — community associations, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Some proponents are concerned that the district will squander the new funding or fail to direct it to where it is most needed. They have good reason to worry.

The Yes on EE campaign website tells us the measure “will lower class sizes and help our neighborhood schools retain and attract quality teachers, counselors, school nurses, librarians, support staff and principals.” What it doesn’t tell us is whether the funding is meant to cover the spending already agreed to in L.A. Unified’s recent employee contracts or new demands to be made by the district’s unions.

UTLA seems to think it does both. On the one hand, the union argues that Measure EE money is absolutely critical for continued funding of the gains it won during its January strike.

“Our strike forced LAUSD to tap into its huge reserve to offer a fair pay raise; lower class size; hire more nurses, teacher-librarians, and counselors; and other improvements, but that reserve is one-time money,” reads the front-page article in the most recent United Teacher. “If L.A. schools do not secure additional revenue after that money is gone, the pressure for cuts begins in the form of employee layoffs, threats to healthcare and retirement, and cuts to student programs.”

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl made the same warning. “What happens if Measure EE fails?,” he wrote. “Our strike forced LAUSD to tap into its reserves to fund lower class size and other improvements for students. If LAUSD does not get additional revenue once that one-time money is gone, we can expect layoffs, attacks to our healthcare, and the threat of school closures.”

After making the point that Measure EE money is necessary because it carries the load after one-time funding is exhausted, Caputo-Pearl goes on to say that the new funding “will let us more solidly plan for the first round of reopener bargaining, just months away in January 2020, as we think about additional pay increases, further class-size reduction, special education, additional health and human services positions, and other resources for our students.”

Daniel Barnhart, UTLA’s vice president for secondary schools, echoed that sentiment in his column, headlined, “Our strike left us hungry for more; Measure EE sets us up for next round of contract bargaining.”

Where Caputo-Pearl was cagey when referencing the next round of contract talks, Barnhart was blunt. “What we have is not enough, what we will have is not enough, and we can and should work for more,” he wrote.

While district officials are looking to Measure EE to fund promises they made that they can’t currently afford, Barnhart and UTLA are already prepared to make them do it again.

“I want to be back at the table, with our solidarity intact, and with almost half a billion dollars a year in new Measure EE funding to make demands on,” he wrote.

What all this suggests is that whether Measure EE passes or fails will have little effect on L.A. Unified’s future financial stability. If you enjoyed the 2018 contract disputes and the 2019 strike, get ready for reruns.

*This article has been updated with the lawsuit against Measure EE. 

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