The union immediately dismissed the offer in a news release, calling it “far short of what educators deserve after seven years without a pay raise and unabated increases in the cost of living.”
“Earlier this year, the LAUSD School Board saw fit to give Superintendent John Deasy the equivalent of a 15.8 percent raise,” Warren Fletcher, the out-going union president, said in the release. “Now they offer classroom teachers a two percent one-time payment? This is nothing short of an insult to every teacher and health and human services professional in LAUSD.”
Alex Caputo-Pearl, the in-coming president, said, “We urge LAUSD to come to the table with the recognition that our educators are the essential backbone of our public schools and that real respect given to educators translates into meeting the needs of students, schools, and communities.”
LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on on-going negotiations.
The contract offer, which was approved by the school board in closed session on May 20 and presented three days later, comes amid a cross-current of fiscal developments at the city and state level as California climbs out of a long recession.
While Gov. Jerry Brown has instituted a new funding formula for school districts statewide, sending putting more dollars in local hands, he is also asking teachers to increase their pension contributions as a way to help pay down $74 billion in teacher pension debt. This year’s payment would amount to $450 million.
That comes as a blow to UTLA and other state teacher unions, who have been waiting for improved economic conditions to demand more in salary and benefits from their school districts. In January, UTLA issued an initial demand of a 17.6 percent salary increase, although it did not stipulate over how many years.
The economic turnaround is now underway. But if the district’s opening offer prevails, it would fall well short of what union leaders were seeking for its 35,000 teachers and health and human services professionals.
“There is no question,” Fletcher said in the news release, “that there is enough money coming from the state to implement a multi-year class-size reduction and staffing plan to return District services to their pre-recession levels and to simultaneously fund employee raises—yet the District continues to make indefensible budget choices that shortchange students and educators.”
What happens next remains a function of collective bargaining. The district has a mid-June deadline to complete its spending plan and budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and a big part of that is calculating labor costs.
While the district is moving closer to deals with other unions, the teachers union remains an outlier for now. Caputo-Pearl, while campaigning for president, made no secret of his desire to get his members what they would consider a fair deal after so many years at stagnant wages, going so far as to suggest a strike.
“The fact that negotiations have begun in earnest is a huge step in the right direction,” Board member Stete Zimmer told LA School Report.
The board meets again on June 10. That is one week before the budget deadline.
Vanessa Romo contributed reporting to this story.