Los Angeles teachers vote to take pay cut, shorten school year


Members of United Teachers Los Angeles have approved a one-year labor contract that would shorten the school year and reduce pay in exchange for the preservation of more than 4,000 jobs, the union announced Saturday.

The vote tally was 58% in favor of the contract and 42% opposed. Roughly two-thirds of all union members cast ballots. UTLA represents nurses, librarians, counselors, psychologists and psychiatric social workers in addition to classroom instructors.

The school board approved the one-year pact Tuesday. Under the agreement, teachers would forfeit as much as 10 days of pay and the 2012-13 school year could be reduced to 175 days from 180. It would be the fourth straight academic year shortened because of budget cutbacks. More than 1,300 UTLA members still would lose their jobs because of declining enrollment, reduced state and federal funding, and program cuts.

Last year, 86% of teachers casting ballots voted to approve a similar deal. Union President Warren Fletcher said it was no surprise the margin was smaller this year.

“Teachers have begun to worry — justifiably — that by sacrificing and putting the needs of our students and our communities first, we educators are enabling the school board and the superintendent to continue year after year to eliminate dedicated teachers, to shorten the school year for every student, and to further undercut the value of an LAUSD education,” Fletcher said. “This vote puts the superintendent and school board on notice.”

In an interview, Fletcher accused the school district of sending out more potential layoff notices than necessary. It sent out well more than 10,000. He also said the school district was spending more money than it should on a new evaluation system, standardized testing materials and consultants. At the same time, he said he accepted that the budget crisis was real and added that it would become worse if voters failed to approve a statewide tax increase in November.

The agreement means that adult school enrollment will shrink by about a third, but will no longer face total elimination. Preschool programs will also continue at reduced levels. The number of elementary school arts educators, nurses and librarians, as well as overall class sizes, will be maintained at current levels. (The previous four years had seen cuts in those areas because of decreased state aid.)

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and school board members have praised teachers and other employees for accepting reduced pay to help the district maintain jobs and services.