Presented with a $54-million wish list of school services that could gobble up extra state revenues, the Los Angeles Board of Education postponed a decision Tuesday on whether to begin negotiating a pay raise demanded by employees.
During a seven-hour closed session, the board considered but did not vote on the request of the district’s seven bargaining units to reopen their contracts so that they could get a share of the bonus from Sacramento, said General Counsel Richard K. Mason.
Mason said the board has not ruled out the request, and he expects the question to come up again in a future session.
In response to a projected state budget surplus that could give the district a bonus of up to $90 million, the unions have asked for a 4% raise over the 2% their current contract provides this year. All district bargaining units are in the second year of a three-year contract offering a 6% increase in the first year and 2% in each of the next two.
As an alternative to spending the money on salaries, Supt. Ruben Zacarias prepared a list of direct services to schools that he said would improve the quality of education. They include such basics as more summer school, library books, staff training and tutoring.
The $54-million price tag for the services was conservative, he said, and could easily grow to $90 million without filling potential needs.
Zacarias said it was still not certain how much more money would come from Sacramento. The figure could be as low as $24 million or it could be enough to support some of the new services and a pay raise.
School board member David Tokofsky said he pushed during the closed-door discussion for the district to draw up a list of concessions that it might ask the unions to make in exchange for a raise. For example, teachers could be asked to give up the power to demand classroom assignments based on seniority, thus giving principals more flexibility.
Tokofsky said the district appeared to have no bargaining position, adding that the board should not reopen negotiations if it does not know what it stands to gain.
Day Higuchi, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, said the teachers’ union will press its case with board members that making salaries competitive is the best way to improve education.
The current contract gave teachers their first true raise in this decade. Teachers had voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut in 1991 and 1992 during the recession.
Higuchi argued that subpar pay is the reason that the district has a hard time hiring credentialed teachers.