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Animation of people with picket signsThe Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been engaged in talks for over a year with the Los Angeles teachers union to reach what has been declared as an official impasse. The last time the LA Unified teachers went on strike was in 1989, and currently, the LAUSD and the District are taking steps towards what could end in a formal strike starting as early as this Fall. The main issues the LAUSD are lobbying to change involve pay raises, reduced class sizes, academic freedom, ending over testing of students, students’ rights and support, and educational funding.

Strike Authorization Vote

An announcement was recently made that the Los Angeles teachers union has scheduled a strike-authorization vote to take place later this month. The scheduling of the vote took place after the state’s Public Employment Relations Board concurred that the negotiations had reached an official deadlock.

While even if the vote majority was a ‘yes’ to going on strike, a strike could still be a far way off in the future. What it would mean is that union leaders would have the power to call a strike without another official vote, which puts them that much closer to an official strike.

Los Angeles Teachers Requests

While other LA district employee unions have come to agreements on providing a 6-percent pay increase over three years, the District has not offered such an increase. The LA teachers union is requesting a 6.5-percent raise that would be retroactive to July 1, 2016. They have also proposed subsequent raises over the next three years.

In addition to the pay-raise issue, reduced class sizes to put an end to students and over testing, caseloads of Special Ed teachers, academic freedom, shared-decision making, educator development, support and evaluation, and issues pertaining to student rights and support. An accountability issue regarding independently operated non-union charter schools was also discussed as charters are in direct competition with the district for funding and students.

District and Union Responses

District officials have countered that the changes proposed by the Union would increase the already annual spending deficit from $500 million to approximately $1.3 billion – a drastic increase they claim would consume reserve funds. According to LA Unified budget officials, the financial situation of the District is already in a precarious position due to declining enrollment numbers and the increasing costs of employee benefit programs.

Union leaders counter this claim with the accusation that District leaders are exaggerating the LAUSD’s financial challenges specifically in response to the Union’s demands. The Union leaders further counter the arguments of the District officials with the accusation that their refusal of the teachers’ proposal speaks to their lack of commitment to student success and education funding increases.

An Official Impasse is Declared

With the Union’s statement declaring an official deadlock, comes the involvement of the state labor relations board, which could initiate a weeks- or months-long mediation discussions. While a strike is not predetermined, the course of action towards a Teachers Union strike could very likely result in a strike taking place as early as this Fall.

Teachers strikes are generally a last resort after months, and sometimes years, of negotiation efforts between the teachers Union and District officials have reached an official impasse. Final thoughts are put towards the students and how not having school to attend in the upcoming Fall would affect them in the long run. However, the LA Teachers Union claims to have the bigger picture in mind and is after improvements to the students’ quality of education in terms of funding, class sizes, special education standards and opportunities, academic freedom, and of primary importance are student rights and support resources.

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