UTLA Again Declares Impasse in Talks with LAUSD

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - For the second time this month, the union representing Los Angeles Unified School District teachers announced today it has declared an impasse in contract talks with the district, a move that could lead to state-led mediation efforts and push the union closer to calling a possible strike.

United Teachers Los Angeles and the LAUSD have been engaged in contract talks for 14 months, but appear to remain far apart on critical terms, most notably salary increases.

``District officials claim we are being outrageous and uncooperative because we won't join them in their cynical view of our future,'' according to a statement from Arlene Inouye, head of the UTLA bargaining team. ``Our vision for hope and reinvestment does not match their goal to defund, dismantle and ultimately privatize our school district.''

The union is asking for 6.5 percent salary increases, along with steps to lower class sizes, reduce standardized testing and implement ``accountability measures'' for charter schools. The district has offered ongoing 2 percent salary hikes, along with a one-time 2 percent bonus and a $500 stipend for materials and supplies.LAUSD officials said they continue to be open to further negotiations on the issue. 

Najeeb Khoury, LAUSD's director of labor relations, said that as the district demonstrated in agreements reached with the Service Employees International Union and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles union, ``we as a district are prepared to enter into a fair contract that balances the needs of our employees with the needs of our students and the financial stability of the district.''With UTLA declaring an impasse, the state Public Employment Relations Board has five days to decide whether to appoint a state mediator to assist with labor talks, a move that would then be followed by a fact-finding period, after which the union could potentially call for a strike. The entire process could take about three or four months.

UTLA declared an impasse in talks earlier this month, but later withdrew the declaration and resumed contract negotiations. The union, however, gave the district its ``last, best and final offer'' on Tuesday. The district rejected the offer, saying the union's proposals would increase LAUSD's roughly $500 million 2018-19 deficit by roughly another $1 billion.

``The district is disappointed that UTLA, within the span of three weeks, declared impasse, withdrew that request and has now declared impasse again, after having given the district 48 hours to accept or reject a package proposal in its entirety that has a price tag of approximately $1 billion, and would increase the district's structural deficit to $1.5 billion,'' Khoury said.UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, however, lashed out at the LAUSD board and Superintendent Austin Beutner, saying, 

``We can and we must do better.''``UTLA has pushed for essential improvements to the student learning environment, but Beutner and the board majority have agreed to nothing and proposed nothing,'' he said. 

``This is a district worth saving, even if the leaders of our district do not believe so.''The union's roughly 35,000 members are working under the terms of a labor contract that expired June 30, 2017.

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