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LAUSD unions silent over financial report predicting trouble ahead

Craig Clough | November 13, 2015

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UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

Spending cuts. Layoffs. Early retirement packages. Reductions in benefits.

These needs, which were among recommendations made by LA Unified’s independent Financial Review Panel on Tuesday, are the kind that would make any union leader lose sleep. But three full days since the doom and gloom report was presented at the LA Unified school board meeting, with recommendations that would hit the district’s employees hard, the unions have had little if anything to say about it — even after several board members described the need for an all-hands-on-deck collaboration to forestall financial instability.

Messages seeking comment from three of the district’s largest unions —  those representing the teachers, administrators and staff workers — produced only a response from SEIU Local 99, a statement that does not suggest it agrees or disagrees with the financial panel’s conclusions.

The union leaders had an early opportunity to respond. After the presentation, board President Steve Zimmer invited the district’s labor leaders to make any comments. Only Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, accepted the offer, but he used the opportunity to attack the Broad Foundation‘s proposed charter school expansion plan due to the big impact it would have on district enrollment.

Declining enrollment is one of the reasons the panel foresees a loss of revenue in the coming years, and while the Broad plan would hit the district’s enrollment in an enormous way, the panel’s report does not take it into consideration. Even if the Broad plan were cancelled tomorrow, the panel’s dire financial predictions remain.

Among the predictions was a $600 million budget shortfall by 2019 if changes are not made. Among its recommendations that would hit LAUSD unions are:

  • Reduce staff by 10,000 to accommodate decline of 100,000 students over the last six years.
  • Offer early retirement packages to most senior staff.
  • Encourage higher staff attendance to cut down on need for substitutes.
  • Change ratio for benefit package to 90/10 (vs 100/0).
  • Eliminate the teacher pool.
  • Integrate pension entitlements with social security for those who have both.
  • A new regulation to make staff pay for benefits extended to family.

When approached by LA School Report outside the Tuesday meeting to discuss the report, Caputo-Pearl doubled down on his Broad attacks.

“The most important finding that this panel came up with is that there needs to be an increase in enrollment, and the Broad plan does just the opposite,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Caputo-Pearl and Juan Flecha, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) did not respond to messages yesterday, seeking comment about the specific cuts to jobs and benefits the panel recommends. Blanca Gallegos, spokeswoman for SEIU Local 99, which represents school cafeteria workers, custodians, special education assistants and other school workers, forwarded a statement from union Executive Director Max Arias that does not mention the potential layoffs or other recommendations from the panel,

“As LAUSD reviews the financial and operating issues raised by the panel’s report, we cannot forget that the District is, ultimately, charged with caring for the well-being and future of Los Angeles’ children,” the statement said. “Nearly half of SEIU Local 99’s members are parents of children attending LAUSD schools. Ensuring that working families in our communities have access to quality and affordable benefits has a direct impact on the safety and health of students.

“The reality is that LAUSD has vast purchasing power and needs to look at new and creative ways to leverage this power to ensure health care for all. This can include aligning with the City of Los Angeles to increase access to health care to more families, at a lower price. The challenges presented by this report require a continued partnership between the District and all stakeholders and SEIU Local 99 members are eager to have this conversation.”

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