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Just In: LAUSD board approves teacher deal, valued at $607 million

Vanessa Romo | April 21, 2015

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UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outside Dorsey High School

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outside Dorsey High School

The 10.4 percent salary increases LA Unified has agreed to in its deal with United Teachers Los Angeles will cost the district $607 million over three years, according to an analysis Superintendent Ramon Cortines circulated to board members today.

Later, the board voted unanimously, 7-0, to approve the deal.

The final salary figure for the teachers includes $254 million above an amount the district had earlier set aside for the teachers, $353 million, and it does not include an additional $31.6 million that the district will need to pay to other labor union partners who have so called “me-too” clauses. They obligate the district to keep union pay scales on par with each other.

Those expenditures, plus the costly health benefits package approved by the board last week, “will result in two of the district’s out-years having deficit ending balances,” Cortines wrote in his memo. By the end of the 2015-16 the district expects to be $140 million short and about $419 million in the red in 2016-17 for a total deficit of $559 million.

However, Cortines said he expected Gov. Jerry Brown‘s revised budget, due next month, combined with “ending balances” for the current school year would “meet this deficit.”

“The first priority for any new undesignated funds are first to cover the terms of the health and welfare multiyear contract and then to cover the salary agreements and deficits created in the out-years by both,” he wrote. “If the May revise includes one-time funds, the out-years will likely remain in a deficit status that we will have to address accordingly.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the UTLA president, declined to comment on the district’s budget analysis figures, insisting, “I need to see a complete breakdown.”

Throughout the mediation process, he said each side brought in “budget experts.” But, he said, the two sides did not discuss final budget numbers when they landed on a final draft of the contract that the board approved.

The board’s vote to approve the agreement reached Friday night with UTLA brings the deal closer to completion, with the teachers scheduled to approve the deal over the first week of May.

If the teachers sign off, the entire agreement goes back to the school board for a final vote and implementation.

Several board members expressed relief and optimism over the deal in meeting with reporters after today’s meeting. But one, Monica Ratliff, raised a note of caution over the financial risk of uncertain revenue from the state.

“I think it’s really important that we as a district show how we’re going to pay these bills, how we’re going to meet these needs. And my understanding is that we are going to be doing that,”  she said. “We are going to have to come up with an alternative plan in case the May Revise does not work out, and that will probably involve program cuts, layoffs, modifications, and things like that.” 

“I think we should be frank with people and upfront with people about that,” she added.

Ratliff had expressed similar reservations last week when the board approved a benefits package of annual spending in excess of $1 billion a year —  also predicated on how money from the state affects the district’s overall financial stability.

The contract is the first in nearly eight years between the district and its 35,000-member teachers union. It provides teachers a 10.4 percent salary increase over two years, starting with a 4 percent bump that is retroactive to July of last year. Board member Steve Zimmer said it enables the district and its teachers “to come together and begin the process of healing.”

“We have suffered through years and years of budget deficits and cuts,” he said. “Our labor partners, including our teachers have sacrificed tremendously. This is the beginning of a moment in which we are able to say to our teachers, thank you and we believe in you.”

He added, “There have been very difficult times, and there have been moments where our teachers have felt somehow that they were not our partners, or they were not one of the most important elements in us moving forward; this agreement is designed very explicitly and directly to address that.”

Board President Richard Vladovic likened the district’s relationship with UTLA to that of a family. “And as a family does, they fight,” he said. “But we have come together as one to focus on children and we intend to move forward with that in mind.”

When a reporter characterized the agreement as generous, Vladovic disagreed. “ I would not categorize it as that. It’s a fair contract.”

Caputo-Pearl, who led an aggressive campaign that included threats of a strike, echoed Vladovic, saying, “This contract agreement is good for students, it’s good for educators and it’s good for communities. There are immediate concrete improvements that are involved with it and there’s also language that allows for more improvements over time for teaching conditions and learning conditions.”

He said his union members are “very excited about this agreement.”

* Adds comments from board members Monica Ratliff, Steve Zimmer and Richard Vladovic.

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