By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1GAkEfT
3/26/15, 8:59 PM PDT :: A referee from California’s top labor authority proved little help Thursday in the fray between Los Angeles’ school district and teachers union.
The two sides remain divided by more than $774 million per year and at odds over teacher evaluations, Los Angeles Unified School District Chief Labor Negotiator Vivian Ekchian said in a written statement.
A key issue for district officials is $171 million in federal dollars that could be lost if teachers don’t agree to an evaluation system that groups them into one of three categories based, in part, on student performance.
“The union has not yet agreed to this proposal, leaving at risk these vital school-site services to students,” Ekchian said.
Thursday’s meeting in front of a mediator appointed by California’s Public Employment Relations Board was the first of three legally mandated gatherings, with additional dates set for April 6 and 15. Should mediation fail, a fact-finding panel will be formed, before United Teachers Los Angeles can strike.
The teachers union is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise after more than seven years without an across-the-board increase. UTLA also wants LAUSD to hire an estimated 5,081 additional counselors, nurses and librarians, according to LAUSD’s estimates.
District officials have countered with a 5 percent bump and offered to spend $26 million on hiring new teachers – enough for just 277 of the 5,081 educators being sought by union leaders.
LAUSD also wants the teachers union to accept a new evaluation system that has been rejected by the union, which won a legal battle to repeal.
District administrators say $171 million will be lost over the next three years if UTLA fails to accept a performance rating that distinguishes the best and worst teachers under the federal program that aims to improve schools.
While the state of California declined to accept those federal demands for an evaluation system — causing its application to be rejected — Los Angeles Unified is one of nine districts that went directly to the U.S. Department of Education two years ago.
In September, all seven of the remaining school districts were placed in a “high-risk” category and informed they might not receive another year, according to a Sept. 12, 2014, letter from U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle.
Among the key issues were failures to create a new system for rating schools along with an evaluation system to “meaningfully differentiate performance using at least three performance levels,” Delisle wrote. The school district has until June 1 to submit its final guidelines for evaluating teachers.
But even the evaluation system LAUSD is trying to save through a legal appeal only has two levels of ratings, “meets” or “below” standards. Teachers worry a third level will lead to performance-based pay, as determined by the whims of administrators or test scores of their students.
Divisions remain after UTLA, LAUSD meeting with state mediator
by Craig Clough | LA School Report | http://bit.ly/1Noro0w
(Photo: UTLA Facebook page)
Posted on March 27, 2015 10:14 am :: A mediator from the state’s labor board met for the first time yesterday with negotiators from LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, to move contract negotiations forward. But the result was a gulf between the sides that remains wide as ever.
“At this time, the union’s economic demands remain $774 million dollars higher than the District’s offer,” LA Unified’s chief negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, said in a statement.
Also at issue is the fate of $171 million in federal revenue from a California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver, which requires that the two sides agree on a teacher evaluation system by March 31 that includes a minimum of three rankings. Without an agreement with UTLA, the district may be disqualified from receiving the money.
“The funds will be used to pay teachers to provide summer school instruction, after-school tutoring programs and other intervention services to students for the next three years. The union has not yet agreed to this proposal, leaving at-risk these vital school-site services to students,” Ekchian said.
ULTA has not yet issued any pubic statement about yesterday’s meeting and did not respond to a request for comment.
Yesterday’s meeting was the first of three legally mandated sessions with the mediator from the Public Employee Relations Board. The next two are scheduled for April 6 and April 15. They could be extended, and only the mediator can determine that the two sides are unable to reach a resolution.
Before an impasse was declared on Feb. 17, negotiations between the district and UTLA dragged on for seven months. While both sides have given ground, they still remain far apart on such key issues as teacher salary and class size.
The district’s last offer before the impasse was for a 5 percent raise. UTLA, which hasn’t received a raise for its teachers in over seven years, is asking for 8.5 percent, along with an agreement that the district will make major reductions in class size and hire thousands more school counselors, nurses and librarians.
At stake is nothing less than a full strike of UTLA’s 35,000 educators, which the union has been threatening to do as it has carried out a series of “escalating actions” over the last six months. Those efforts included a rally at Grand Park that was attended by thousands, and the recent boycott of faculty meetings.
Mediation is a process where the parties talk – and not necessarily (and usually not initially) with each other – and the mediator attempts to …uh …ya know: mediate?
I have it on good information that Vivian Ekchian’s statement – quoted from in both stories above – was in reference to previous negotiations – not the mediation.
Mediation is a drawn out boring process. There was very little chance that accord was going to be found in the first session. About as much chance as the mediator opening up the the drawer in some forgotten conference room desk and exclaiming: “Oh look, $774 million – just what we were looking for!”
All I am saying is give peace a chance.