LA WATCHDOG--United Teachers Los Angeles and its President, Alex Caputo-Pearl, are asking the Los Angeles Unified School District for salary increases for its members, smaller class sizes, and fully staffed schools.
These demands that total $1.2 billion far outstrip the resources of LAUSD according to LAUSD and County and State authorities, contrary to the misleading remarks by Caputo-Pearl.
While it is difficult to cut through Caputo-Pearl’s trash talk and personnel attacks on Superintendent Austin Beutner, both sides appear to have similar goals, but are separated by a significant financing gulf. This will require solid, in place financing, whether it is from the City, County, and/or State, and not an irresponsible “leap of faith” budget as suggested by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Another obstacle to a speedy settlement is that UTLA and Caputo-Pearl have other priorities.
Over the last decade, LAUSD’s head count has dropped by 245,000 students. Families have opted to attend District financed, non-union charter schools or to send their children to private or religious schools. Many have moved out of the District. This has resulted in a loss of members and revenue for UTLA.
[Parenthetically, LAUSD’s administrative staffing increased 20% during this decline in the student body, a situation that must be addressed.]
Demographics are also working against UTLA as LAUSD is expected to lose 80,000 students over the next decade according the Department of Finance for the State of California.
UTLA may also lose members because of the Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which allows LAUSD teachers to drop out the union and skip paying dues, which, according to The Wall Street Journal, were recently increased by a third.
It appears that UTLA and Caputo-Pearl have developed a multiprong strategy to increase the union’s membership and dues by demanding that LAUSD hire more teachers and support staff (librarians, nurses, and counselors).
They also plan to either place serious limits on charter schools or convert them to union shops, again increasing its membership ranks, resulting in more dues revenue over and above the current level of $46 million.
[Incidentally, charter schools are open for business during the strike.]
UTLA and the politicians are also demanding additional money to fund the union’s demands, a lead in to placing a $600 parcel tax on the ballot designed to raise $500 million a year. They are also promoting the “split roll” ballot measure, which, if approved by voters in November of 2020, will increase LAUSD revenue by another $400-$500 million a year.
[This effort will most likely be endorsed in part by LAUSD, but only if it includes operational, administrative, pension, and financial reforms.]
By declaring a strike and holding out for an unrealistic settlement, the UTLA has generated an inordinate amount of publicity. It has also gained the support of many elected officials who are afraid of antagonizing UTLA and the California Teachers Association, the largest provider of campaign funds in the State.
While striking, UTLA and Caputo-Pearl are endorsing and financing anti-charter Jackie Goldberg in the upcoming election on March 5 to replace pro-charter Ref Rodriquez who resigned after being convicted of campaign financing violations. If Goldberg wins, the Board will flip from being pro-charter to anti-charter, depriving many current and future students of a chance for a better education in a safer environment.
UTLA needs to reset its priorities and do what is right for the students and the five million residents that LAUSD serves. Furthermore, our politicians need to broker a financially sound deal, including one where the State may need to backstop any settlement. Only then can the real discussions begin about how to reform LAUSD, including its bloated bureaucracy, its underfunded pension and medical retirement plans, and its Structural Deficit
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)