Wednesday, May 25, 2011



L.A. school board, union still at odds over budget

The district appeals to the teachers union to take six unpaid days off to help balance the books and save jobs. But parents hold rallies in support of the union, which wants no cuts.

By Jason Song, Los Angeles Times |

May 26, 2011 - While parents held rallies up and down California on Tuesday to protest school budget cuts, the state's largest school district appealed to its teachers union to agree to take unpaid time off to help the district balance its books and save jobs.

"We're trying to hold the house together," said Los Angeles Board of Education member Richard Vladovic.

He and other district officials have noted that five other unions have agreed to six furlough days to help balance a nearly $408-million projected budget shortfall.

Earlier this year, the school board voted to send preliminary layoff notices to nearly 7,000 employees, including about 5,000 teachers.

At a Tuesday morning school board meeting, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and board members pressed the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to accept the six furlough days, which would save the district about $65 million. Union and district officials have been negotiating over budget cuts for weeks.

"We only ask our employees for what is necessary," Deasy said.

If the teachers union agrees, the board would be able to rescind about 3,200 teacher layoff notices, district officials said. And, Deasy said, school libraries would remain open, magnet coordinators would retain their jobs and a popular preschool program also would survive.

Teachers have agreed to furlough days, which are essentially a pay cut, in the last two years.

But union officials insist that the district should be able to balance its budget without firing any employees, saying that officials have overlooked potential sources of income and that revenue from Gov. Jerry Brown's latest proposed budget would allow the board to rescind all layoff notices.

"No [layoffs]. No cuts. No furloughs. That is our plan," union President A.J. Duffy said at an afternoon rally at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The protest was part of a series of gatherings throughout the state intended to call attention to education spending. At some rallies, dubbed "mamas in pajamas," parents attended in their pajamas and called for lawmakers to "wake up" and spend more on education.

The budget negotiations have contributed to a tense relationship between union and district officials.

During the board meeting, Duffy accused Deasy of negotiating through the media, something the superintendent denied. Deasy and union members also have been arguing over a new teacher evaluation system that would include standardized student test scores.

The union said it had not agreed to the program, which would have started on a voluntary basis next year, and filed a complaint in court to stop it.

During the rally, Duffy pointed out that Deasy has talked publicly and "tweeted" about his hopes that the union would agree to a deal — "it's Monday morning and I am still anxiously waiting to hear from UTLA to see if they are ready to save their membership," he posted on Twitter earlier this month.

After the crowd of several hundred teachers booed Deasy's name, Duffy asked: "Who the hell does he think he's talking to?"


LAUSD, teachers union spar over $408M budget gap negotiations

By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | daily News/Daily Breeze |

5/25/2011 - With thousands of jobs at stake, the rhetoric between Los Angeles Unified officials and the teachers union heated up Tuesday as each side accused the other of not negotiating in good faith over plans to close a $408 million budget gap.

Superintendent John Deasy lamented that United Teachers Los Angeles has rejected an agreement that six other unions have signed, calling for six furlough days in exchange for saving thousands of jobs.

If signed by all nine unions, the deal would save about 5,700 jobs, although the district would still make about 1,900 layoffs.

UTLA argues the district can now afford to save every job and have no furloughs whatsoever after Gov. Jerry Brown released a revised state budget that increases school funding statewide by $3 billion.

"We are very much against the clock on this issue," Deasy said. "We have met 16 times with UTLA since March 24 and I am still looking for a counterproposal from UTLA."

UTLA leaders denounced Deasy's suggestion that they are dragging their feet in negotiations and accused the schools chief of trying to make his case through the media rather than at the table.

"He's negotiating in public, albeit subtly," UTLA President A.J. Duffy said during an interview. "And that forces us into an uncomfortable position."

Deasy has been superintendent for less than six weeks, but the tension between him and Duffy has been building recently over issues that include LAUSD's proposal to try out a new teacher evaluation system and the district's decision to give charter schools rights to operate some low-performing district campuses.

The union has filed several complaints with the state's public employee relations board and a court injunction to block the new evaluation system.

Deasy has sent critical messages via Twitter about UTLA's inability to agree to furloughs and its desire to block some reforms that union leaders have criticized.

"My good friend Mr. Deasy, ... when I see certain comments in the media, it seems like you're saying that we're not negotiating, and we have been for weeks," Duffy said during the board meeting.

"My very good friend, Mr. Duffy," Deasy replied. "You know I take your advice and only believe nine-tenths of what I read in the newspaper. ... You and I both know what really happens at the table."

Whatever the talks behind closed doors have been, in public UTLA leaders are refusing the idea of agreeing to any furlough package that doesn't save all educators' jobs.

Officials said the 1,900 layoffs are still necessary because of the district's declining enrollment.

During a picket and protest at the school district's downtown headquarters Tuesday, several hundred educators chanted and held signs demanding that the district rescind the more than 5,000 layoff notices sent to educators.

Diana Cervantes, a fourth-grade teacher at Eshelman Elementary School in Lomita, said she received a layoff notice this year after teaching for seven years. She said it is stressful not knowing whether a deal will be reached and her job will be saved. But Cervantes said she understands the union's reasons for taking a hard position at the bargaining table.

"The district needs to justify why we need these furloughs," she said. "Up until this point they haven't been able to do that yet."

The union believes that the state's updated budget plan, which reported increases in state revenue and included a $3 billion increase for school funding, will bring at least $300 million to LAUSD.

Deasy said Tuesday that he is going to be cautious about counting on any money when state officials have said that, without the approval of a series of tax extensions, schools could still see more cuts.

However, he said he has agreed to count on the state repaying $154 million in IOUs that it has previously failed to make good on.

School board member Richard Vladovic said he supported Deasy's cautious budgeting approach.

"Deasy is already taking a risk," Vladovic said. "When people say let's save all our employees, I'm going to say we have done everything possible. ... Now we need our union's help."

The unions that have agreed to the furlough deal represent administrators, school police, building and trades and other nonteaching positions.

Teamsters and the CSEA, representing office workers, campus aides and custodians, have also not agreed to the furlough deal.


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