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JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Vanessa Romo | July 21, 2014

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Vivian Ekchian Betty Forrester LAUSD

From left: Negotiators Vivian Ekchian, LAUSD; Betty Forrester, UTLA

In a new contract proposal to the teachers union, UTLA, LA Unified is offering a three-year package with annual raises of at least 2 percent and a plan to re-hire 3,000 teachers who have been laid off in recent years.

The latest offer adds two years to the length of the contract initially offered to the union and mirrors the deal offered to AALA, the administrators union: a 2 percent lump sum for 2013-14, a 2 percent raise over each of the next two years, and a 2.5 percent pay bump in 2016-17. 

District officials intend to present the latest terms to the union officials, including the chief negotiator, Betty Forrester, at a bargaining session scheduled for Thursday. Two more sessions are scheduled for August.  

The district’s chief labor negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, told LA School Report that she is eager to resume contract talks after nearly a month of inactivity. 

UTLA rejected the district’s opening proposal on May 26 without any debate, calling it “insulting.” The union has asked for a 17.6 percent raise over an unspecified number of years, following seven years without a salary increase.  

Ekchian says the more robust offer is not likely to be dismissed as quickly. “The past rejection was based on new contracts for just two years,” she said. “This is a four-year commitment.”

When compounded, the pay increases add up to 8.5 percent over the next three years, which would cost the district more than $353 million, she said. Including health benefits and other costs, the district says the the new reflects a 26.3 percent increase over current levels. 

Ekchian said the union has been given advanced copies of the contract offer. Efforts to reach UTLA leaders were unsuccessful. 

Documents obtained by LA School Report provide details of the proposed contract. It comes with a caveat that the terms reflect continued revenue increases to the district from the state and rising costs for health and welfare plans that the district says costs $17,134 per employee, as well as “tens of millions in personal injury liability arising out of child abuse incidents.”

The documents also show the district is offering the union:

  • The rehiring of over 3,000 UTLA members who were laid-off over the last three years
  • The addition of more than 100 teachers to the 37 schools identified in the Reed settlement
  • Class size reductions at the elementary school level
  • An additional 252 teachers for language arts and math in secondary schools
  • An additional 15 full-time librarians and 78 full-time arts teachers by 2016-17
  • An addition of “hundreds of positions” for administrators, library and  classroom aides, and clerical workers

Ekchian insisted that judging the contract only by the salary increase is short-sighted.  

“It really ends up being a lot more than that because that doesn’t include the health benefit costs, the CalSTRS pension cost to the district,” she said. 

The district’s offer also includes a major shift in teacher evaluation. The district is proposing a four-level performance rating system — “Highly Effective,” “Effective,” “Developing” and “Ineffective” — to replace the current two-tier system of “meets standard/below standard.”

Speaking at the recent American Federation of Teachers conference in Los Angeles, UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl raised the possibility of a strike if a fair bargain were not reached. In an interview with the LA Times, he said members have received instructions to start saving money in anticipation of a strike.

The teachers union, which includes health services employees, remains one of the last of the district’s labor partners to reach agreement on a contract.  

Previous Posts: Ouch! LAUSD to pay $1.1 billion for teacher pension rescue; Strike talk emerges on Caputo-Pearl’s first day as union chief; LAUSD board approves labor deals — but not yet for teachers

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