L.A. Unified teachers ratify three-year contract

LA schools Supt Cortines favors teachers contract but worries about budget deficit

An overwhelming majority of teachers union members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union announced Friday.

More than 97% of 25,407 educators who cast ballots favored the pact, which  includes a 10% raise over two years.

Union members also ratified a separate benefits package that retains key current features of employee health plans.

"The collective bargaining agreement is good for educators and students," union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

The Board of Education must give formal approval to the deal, which is widely expected as soon as next week.

The raise is phased in: 4% is retroactive to July 1, 2014; 2% retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. Pay goes up another 2% on July 1, and the final 2% on Jan. 1, 2016. Teachers have the right to negotiate for an additional raise in the third year of the contract.

Teachers had gone without a pay increase for eight years, although they continued to receive salary boosts based on years of experience and additional eligible education credits.

During the recent recession, teachers had agreed to temporary salary reductions. Still,thousands of educators and other employees were laid off.

The agreement includes funding to reduce the size of classes in key subjects or grade levels. Schools may also get more counselors, although the maximum ratio of students per secondary school counselor is still 500 to 1.

The two sides also agreed to develop a new teacher evaluation and support program by fall 2016. In the meantime, the district will streamline the current process.

United Teachers Los Angeles made one notable concession from an earlier position. It accepted three possible final ratings for teachers: exceeds standards, meets standards or below standard.

The union had wanted to keep the practice of using two possible ratings. Accepting the district's alternative could result in the district retaining control over millions of dollars in federal aid tied to evaluation standards.

Though he favors the agreement, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has warned that its cost could contribute to future budget cuts and even layoffs.

Despite improved relations between the union and L.A. Unified, UTLA has said it will protest next week against the district's plans to cut or even eliminate programs that have lost state funding support.

In addition to teachers, the union represents health and human services staff, including nurses and school psychologists.

Twitter: @howardblume 

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