L.A. teachers union seeks 20% raise in new contract

The Los Angeles teachers’ union is calling for a 20% increase over two years, smaller class sizes and a sharp reduction in standardized tests — the latest stress test for the nation’s second-largest school district and Supt. Alberto Carvalho as the system struggles with the post-pandemic setbacks in deep learning and to address the psychological needs of the students.

For United Teachers Los Angeles — which held three simultaneous rallies across the massive school system on Monday — their contract platform speaks to the intense pressures members say are straining their profession, leading to dire teacher shortages in California and across the country. Persistent economic uncertainties and the high cost of living and housing in Los Angeles have increased her focus on contract talks as teachers worry about career sustainability and increasing workloads.

“If you can’t even afford to live when you work, we have a problem, all of you,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz in impassioned remarks that ended the rally outside the county’s headquarters west of downtown. “This district has had a full seven months to address the teacher shortage and ensure that every student has a homeroom teacher, every student has a school nurse, every student has a counselor and librarian, and mental health support.”

Speakers at the rally included newly elected school board member Rocio Rivas, who benefited from a multimillion-dollar independent campaign on her behalf by the teachers’ union.

A crowd holding signs and singing at night

“Los Angeles Unified continues to meet regularly with our work partners,” the district said in a statement released this afternoon.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

While Myart-Cruz tried to cheer their base, school district officials tried to contain things.

“Los Angeles Unified continues to meet regularly with our work partners,” the district said in a statement released this afternoon. “We respect and recognize the commitment of our employees and the need to reward them fairly in this current economic environment. We remain committed to avoiding lengthy negotiations to keep the focus on our students and student achievements.”

At the rallies, participants focused on record multi-billion dollar reserves, with the message that if teachers and other staff cannot be rewarded and helped now, when will it ever be possible?

Carvalho, in turn, has drawn attention to possible difficulties ahead. Financial forecasters, including the state Legislative Analyst, are warning of an economic downturn as one-off COVID-19 aid runs out. A raise that’s affordable in 2022 still has to be paid three years from now — when money is likely to get tighter and when steadily falling student numbers could create more financial pressure.

The LA Unified Labor Actions come as a massive strike among UC academics enters its fourth week, with 48,000 teaching assistants, tutors, graduate students and postdocs also decrying the high cost of California housing in their demands for a significant pay rise more support for childcare, health care and transportation. Workers have rallied on campuses across the state for several weeks and held sit-ins Monday, with the parties widely separated to make money.

UTLA members, students, parents and community leaders gather in front of LAUSD headquarters

Some critics see many union proposals as off-topic or as management prerogatives. But despite the bread-and-butter agenda, UTLA has a reputation for standing up compared to teachers’ unions elsewhere.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

A common theme for both unions was the high cost of living in the area, which teachers repeatedly raised at the downtown union meeting.

“As someone new to LA, the teachers don’t make enough money to live in the city at all,” said Nekhoe Hogan, a third-year teacher at Manual Arts High School just south of downtown. “The public needs to realize that teachers are asking for basic needs, and then working conditions need to be normal — not too many kids in the classroom, not too many administrative things to take care of that prevent them from actually doing their work teach children.”

Other factors also make the job challenging, including working with students who are academically lagging and have greater emotional needs due to the pandemic hardship.

“There are a lot of things that you should know right now that you don’t know,” Hogan said. “And so, in a way, I feel obligated to essentially catch up on two years of education in one semester — and that’s impossible.”

The rallies included parent supporters. Some other parent representatives who did not participate are concerned that industrial action could lead to further potential learning disruptions. The previous termination of the contract was only achieved after a week-long strike in January 2019.

Families “are fed up with politics and the endless chaos,” said Christie Pesicka, a spokeswoman for a parent group critical of the teachers’ union. “The registration numbers are going down. By the time the dispute is resolved there may not be enough students left for LAUSD to remain solvent.”

Negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles are going quite differently. In addition to seeking a raise, the union is pushing for changes in how students are educated on its Beyond Recovery platform, which aims to “ensure our neighborhood public schools serve the unique needs of students, families and educators in every community meet. ”

The union says standardized assessments take up valuable learning time and calls for the abolition or drastic reduction of such tests where they are not required by the state or federal government.

Carvalho has acknowledged that such assessments are not always well organized or consistent from one region of the district to another, but has defended their intent. The tests are used as fundamental measures to guide instruction throughout the system, particularly under the data-centric Carvalho.

Some of the union’s demands align with district goals, such as: B. Expanded access to bilingual programs and more ethnic studies courses. Like the union, the district supports the hiring of a full-time nurse in each school, but has not been able to hire them in a competitive job market.

The union wants a four-student reduction in classes everywhere in the next two years. The district plans to target cuts where they are most needed based on academic performance and the percentage of low-income families.

Some critics see many union proposals as off-topic or as management prerogatives. But even with the bread-and-butter agenda, UTLA has a reputation for standing up to teachers’ unions elsewhere — and such is the case with the 20 percent wage proposal.

The district is offering 8% so far, according to rate updates the union publishes online.

UTLA leaders are proud to have a curriculum and social agenda – the union’s platform is calling for the installation of solar panels and the purchase of electric buses.

The union package also calls for a freeze on school closures – which are becoming harder to avoid as enrollment falls – and an end to “over-monitoring and criminalization of students in schools”.

The platform does not specifically call for the end of school police, although the union leadership supports their abolition. A union proposal tabled earlier this year aimed to “end all requirements for police use, except where required by federal, state or local law requiring police use”.

The unions’ bargaining platform is also urging the district to “push” for federal “housing vouchers to support LAUSD families” and “convert vacant LAUSD properties into housing for low-income families” — though it’s difficult to get see how these elements would be enforced via a teacher contract.

A crowd of people at night downtown

The rallies included parent supporters. Some other parent representatives who did not participate are concerned that industrial action could lead to further potential learning disruptions.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Other LA Unified bargaining units have typically benefited from UTLA’s hard line — as their raises and perks reflect those UTLA fought for. However, another union is independent, the Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents the largest number of non-teaching employees, including bus drivers, teaching assistants, janitors and cafeteria workers.

Local 99 members include some of the lowest earners in the school system — earning an average of $25,000 a year for work that is often part-time. They have their own rally scheduled for next week.

By and large, 2022 was a year of relative rest for K-12 education in California.

“Record funding — so many districts are committing early and working with staff to improve programs etc.,” said Frank Wells, a regional spokesman for California Teachers Assn. “Others, for whatever reason, are unnecessarily harsh.”

Specifically, Wells spoke about Covina-Valley Unified, where teachers arrived within hours of the strike last week. This strike was averted with a tentative agreement. In Glendale, the teachers union and the school district mediate.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-06/l-a-teachers-union-is-demanding-a-20-raise-and-rallies-to-step-up-contract-talks L.A. teachers union seeks 20% raise in new contract

Alley Einstein

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