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Teachers stage district-wide protest as LAUSD holds firm on money

LA School Report | February 12, 2015

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UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning  (Credit: UTLA)

UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning (photo credit: UTLA)

The LA Unified teachers staged one of its biggest “escalations” yet in support of their demands in a new contract from the district, staging demonstrations at schools across the district.

The teachers union, UTLA, said “virtually every school was participating” in protests that lasted 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the school.

“These people have been the heroes of education for the past eight years,” Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said at a press conference this morning at Carver Middle School in south Los Angeles. “They are dealing with some of the highest class sizes and staffing ratios and have endured years without a raise. LAUSD has more than 3,000 classes with more than 45 students in them. The things we are demanding—lower class sizes, fully staffed schools and fair compensation—are not radical. They are necessary. School employees have been breaking their backs to make up for a lack of staffing and resources at schools, but it’s too much to sustain. Now’s the time to turn this around.”

Just as teachers moved inside to begin classes, district Superintendent Ramon Cortines issued a statement in response to the demonstrations that seemed to suggest the district’s most recent salary increase offer might be its last.

The district’s most recent offer to the teachers was a five percent pay increase, retroactive to July 1 of last year, with an increase of the minimum salary to $50,000 from $45,637 and $13 million to help reduce class size.

The union has steadily dropped its salary raise demand, to a current 8.5 percent.

“We are making progress,” Cortines said in the statement. “But increasing the offer could result in reduction in services to students and layoffs, across the board, throughout the District.”

He added, “I respect the teachers’ point of view but I want them to know that LAUSD has been in a negative financial situation for several years. We are in recovery mode from the Great Recession and at the same time, responding to declining enrollment, among other factors. We are working to develop a budget that treats employees equitably.”

Cortines said the district’s current offer was “very comparable” to pay scales in other districts across the state, and the district included a chart that examines comparisons.

Negotiations between the union and the district continue today.

“I’m hopeful,” he said, “we can make some progress.”

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