Los Angeles Teachers Union Sets Up Strike Vote

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Howard Blume has the story in the Los Angeles Times.

Members of the Los Angeles teachers union have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, the union announced Friday.

Tensions continue to build over contract negotiations, with the union and school district lately accusing each other of acting illegally.

A strike authorization does not mean that a strike will occur, but it gives the union’s board of directors the power to call a walkout without returning to the membership for approval. The authorization was expected; the main unknown was the size of the mandate — and it was considerable, which was widely expected.

About 81% of teachers cast ballots. Of those, 98% voted for the authorization, according to preliminary totals.

In a statement, Los Angeles Unified School District officials noted that unions representing most other employees have reached contract settlements.

“Students and families will bear the brunt of a strike,” the statement says. “We hope our shared responsibility to put students first will prevent a strike and lead to a common sense resolution that recognizes the hard work of our employees while addressing the safety and instructional needs of students and the financial solvency of L.A. Unified.”

United Teachers Los Angeles represents about 31,000 teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, social workers and psychologists in L.A. Unified.

The union wants a 6.5% raise that would include retroactive pay and not phase in gradually, and wants to keep the door open for later raises over the expected three-year term. The union also wants to reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers and add many more nurses, librarians and counselors.

The district says these proposals — while desirable — would push the nation’s second-largest school system into immediate insolvency.

The union’s 69-page proposal covers a broad range of district operations. It includes a demand that teachers be given more control over how many and which standardized tests their students take, with the goal of limiting the number of these exams.

The district considers such decisions to be the province of management. On its side, the district wants a teacher-evaluation metric that has four levels instead of three — including a new category of “highly effective.” In the past, union leaders have expressed concern that expanding the rating system could lead to selective raises based on subjective judgments rather than seniority and qualifications.