L.A. teachers union declares impasse in contract talks

L.A. teachers want 8.5%; the L.A. school district is offering 5%. Impasse declared

The union representing Los Angeles teachers on Wednesday declared an impasse in protracted contract negotiations with the nation's second-largest school system.

Negotiators for the two sides remain far apart.

L.A. Unified has offered a 5% raise retroactive to July 1, 2014. United Teachers Los Angeles is seeking an 8.5% one-year increase.

Teachers have not had a pay raise or cost of living increase in eight years, and agreed to pay cuts through furlough days during the depths of the recent economic recession. Thousands of teachers also were laid off because of budget cuts and shrinking enrollment. Teachers have continued to receive pay boosts based on education credits and experience. 

Pay is not the only issue. The union also is calling for smaller class sizes and increased staffing, among other things.

"UTLA will not accept a piecemeal agreement that addresses only one or two issues, which fails to improve student learning conditions and educator working conditions," the union said in a statement.

The district counters that it has made fair counteroffers affecting teacher evaluations, class sizes and parent involvement.

If the Public Employment Relations Board officially affirms the deadlock in talks, a mediator will step in. If an agreement still cannot be reached, the teachers will be one step closer to calling a strike. 

"We will continue our aggressive organizing campaign through every stage of this process," the union statement said.

District officials said they welcomed mediation.

“I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by the lack of progress toward an agreement,” Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement. “It’s my hope that the appointment of a mediator will lead to an expeditious settlement that ultimately supports our students and the district at large.”

The rhetoric between the union and district has been less antagonistic since the resignation of Supt. John Deasy in October, but the detente failed to result in a settlement.  

L.A. Unified estimates that the two sides are about $800 million apart.

The union points to increases in state funding. The district says the union is overestimating the impact of these new dollars. Other employee groups have settled for less than the teachers are seeking.

The union has scheduled a rally for next Thursday in downtown's Grand Park.

Twitter: @howardblume

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