By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1xEfNrx
A 17.6 percent raise would bankrupt Los Angeles Unified, Superintendent John Deasy said, adding that the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which has fiscal oversight, would never approve such a budget. (File photo by Brittany Murray/Daily Breeze)
Posted: 09/07/14, 4:27 PM PDT :: As union leaders discuss shutting down Los Angeles’ public schools with a strike for better wages and teaching conditions, records obtained by this news organization show that those educators averaged $2,148 less in pay than peers at a majority of California schools last year.
Pre-tax pay amounted to $67,475 on average for teachers and assistants working at Los Angeles Unified schools in 2013, while their counterparts at 653 other California school districts averaged $69,623, according to district records and data from schools across the state compiled by Transparent California, a website operated by the California Policy Center.
While LAUSD offers a more generous benefit package than other districts — including healthcare insurance without monthly premiums — total compensation here still amounts to $1,403 less than teachers across California, which averaged $84,938.
District and union negotiators will meet Wednesday for a fourth round of talks, with United Teachers Los Angeles now demanding a 17.6 percent across-the-board pay raise over two years.
The two sides met for a first round of talks July 24, when union representatives rejected the district’s offer of a 6.64 percent across-the-board raise over the next 22 months and an immediate two percent bonus. The district proposal would have increased average teacher pay over this fiscal year to more than the average at a majority of California schools in 2013.
But United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said teachers deserve 17.6 percent, because L.A.’s cost of living has ballooned by 20 percent over the past seven years — a period in which teachers have only seen raises for longevity and agreed to take furlough days that amounted to an 8 percent pay loss.
United Teachers Los Angeles President
Alex Caputo-Pearl said teachers deserve 17.6 percent, because L.A.’s cost of living has ballooned by 20 percent over the past seven years — a period in which teachers have only seen raises for longevity and agreed to take furlough days that amounted to an 8 percent pay loss. (File photo by Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)
“In order to recruit and retain the highest-quality educators and restore 8 percent in pay cuts we took to keep the district afloat over the last seven years, we need a substantial pay increase,” Caputo-Pearl said.
Caputo-Pearl, a full-time teacher who has taught at schools in some of Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhoods over his 22-year career, earned $69,053 last year, according to his Wage and Tax statement obtained by this news organization.
Full-time, college-educated and certificated teachers, such as Caputo-Pearl, were paid $70,320 on average by LAUSD in 2013, according to an analysis that eliminated assistants and teachers who made less than the minimum base-pay.
Caputo-Pearl won the union presidency over the incumbent in an April runoff. He was backed by a faction of teachers called “Union Power,” which swept leadership positions in March elections that drew only 23 percent of UTLA’s 31,552 members. During and after the elections, the group has called for a strike should LAUSD fail to make an acceptable contract offer.
Over the past two weeks, Caputo-Pearl and union leaders visited more than 300 schools in an effort to organize rank-and-file members in case of a strike, he said.
“We’re bargaining in good faith and will continue to do that, but we’re preparing for all possibilities,” Caputo-Pearl said.
A 17.6 percent raise would bankrupt Los Angeles Unified, Superintendent John Deasy said, adding that the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which has fiscal oversight, would never approve such a budget. As it stands, the district’s current offer creates a projected deficit of $100 million in fiscal year 2015-16, he said.
The district’s proposal, Deasy said, attempts to balance union requests for additional teachers while providing a pay raise. LAUSD has added and restored thousands of teaching positions this year, while offering the union a package that amounts to 26.3 percent in added compensation, including the rising costs of benefits, pay incentives for higher education and salary steps for longevity.
“We struck a balance with the best rate we could and employing as many new people as we could,” Deasy said. “That’s why we brought back all of those positions and added so many more; we could have not brought them back and had a little more salary.”
After three meetings between union and district negotiators, Deasy said he doesn’t sense an agreement on “the near horizon.”
The pay figures used for this report are culled from the most comprehensive database of teacher pay in California, said research fellow Robert Fellner, who worked on the project by Transparent California.
While 405 of the state’s 1,058 school districts, including LAUSD, didn’t respond to the organization’s request in time for the database’s July launch, the organization still managed to assemble records from 653 districts. In reporting this story, this news organization obtained payroll records from LAUSD, which did not list employee names, and applied the same methods used by Transparent California.
Although the California Department of Education reports salary figures annually, those numbers reflect base pay, which only represents a portion of pre-tax income or “pay” and an even smaller percent of “compensation.”
Los Angeles Unified teachers start out at a slightly lower salary, $39,788, compared to California’s $40,329 average, and also top out at less than the statewide average at $78,906 versus $79,279, according to 2012-13 figures from the California Department of Education.
Teacher salary in LAUSD reflects 186 days of work per year, which gives educators vacations over the summer and around other holidays.
But they can earn extra pay by teaching summer school and after-school programs and performing other tasks on top of their paid six-hour workday.
And 111 teachers earned more than $100,000 in 2013, with the district’s highest-paid teacher collecting $149,675 in pre-tax income, according to LAUSD records.
LAUSD’s chief labor negotiator Vivian Ekchian said she’s looking forward to meeting with UTLA leaders on Wednesday to go over the specifics of their proposal, which were not outlined in a letter the school board will formally receive at Tuesday’s board meeting. There are also bargaining dates set for Sept. 10, Oct. 2 and, tentatively, Oct. 9.
“This is definitely, by me, perceived as a step in the right direction,” Ekchian said of talking about the union’s proposals.