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L.A. Unified begins mediation with teachers and reaches deal with another union

L.A. Unified begins mediation with teachers and reaches deal with another union
A Thursday mediation session that took place here, at L.A. Unified headquarters, west of downtown, led to no immediate breakthrough between the teachers union and district officials. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles school district began mediation with its teachers union Thursday and also celebrated a contract agreement — but it wasn’t with the teachers.

The mediation is confidential, though first-day signs were not so promising. When it was over, United Teachers Los Angeles released a harsh letter to Supt. Austin Beutner, which read in part, “Mr. Beutner, you have proven that you are unqualified, untrustworthy and unavailable.”

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Both sides have made their cases in public as well as in private. The union wants the nation’s second-largest school system to dig deeper into a financial reserve that appears to have reached a record size. L.A. Unified points to forecasts that predict the current pace of spending — along with future liabilities — could cause the district to go broke in three or four years.

The union that reached a deal with the district was the Teamsters, which represents about 3,000 employees, including campus facilities managers, cafeteria managers and school administrative assistants. The school district has now reached contract agreements with the vast majority of its non-teaching employees.

The Teamsters settled for a salary increase that mirrors what the district is offering teachers: 3% retroactive to July 1, 2017, plus an additional 3% retroactive to this past July. The teachers have asked for a 6.5% raise that goes back an additional year.

Beutner has said the district needs more state funding and that everyone should pitch in to try to get it.

“We appreciate the Teamsters’ commitment to working with L.A. Unified on a joint effort in Sacramento to increase funding for public education,” he said in a statement Thursday. “The path forward begins in Sacramento.”

The message about state funding seemed to be directed at the teachers — who he thinks should sign a contract and join in the lobbying effort for more state support.

The teachers union is willing to collaborate in working for more state funding, but also insists the district can do more with its current resources.

The next mediation session is scheduled for Wednesday.

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