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LA teachers' strike all but certain as union rejects district's latest offer

Howard Blume, John Myers and Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES –– Negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing its teachers ended Friday with no deal in sight. All signs point to the first strike in 30 years in the nation's second-largest school system.

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said that unless district officials make a significant new proposal, 31,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors will strike Monday.

"Get ready," Caputo-Pearl said at a news conference. "Because on Monday we will go on strike for our students, for our schools and for the future of public education in Los Angeles."

Friday's was the week's third negotiating session, and the district increased its offer based on the expectation of new money from California Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed budget.

The latest offer would provide a full-time nurse at every elementary school and lower class sizes by about two students at middle schools. It builds on a proposal from Monday, in which the district also offered a small decrease in class sizes.

In Monday's proposal, maximum class sizes in grades four, five and six would drop from 36 to 35, and in high school from 42 to about 39. Schools with the most needs would see larger reductions -- about four students per class. Also, every secondary school would get a librarian, which some middle schools do not have now. High schools would get an extra academic counselor.

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"Every nickel that we're receiving, we're investing in our classrooms," LA schools superintendent Austin Beutner said at a news conference. "This is not a conversation about values. We want the same sorts of things."

Caputo-Pearl disputed both those assertions. He said that the district's offers were limited to one year, after which class sizes could increase again and new staff could be cut. He also criticized the proposed class-size reductions as piecemeal and paltry, saying the district could afford to do much better.

The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, says it's fighting for smaller classes and schools that are "fully staffed" with nurses, librarian and counselors.

Beutner said budget constraints limit the new hiring to one year for now. All told, the new proposals would spend $130 million on about 1,200 positions, he said.

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