Amidst a nationwide school staffing shortage, the union representing Los Angeles Unified teachers is seeking a 20% salary increase over two years as part of its proposal for a new contract with the country’s second-largest school district.
The 10% pay hike proposed for each of the next two years would help attract and retain educators at a time when LAUSD, like many districts, is grappling with a worker shortage and teachers are desperately needed to help students rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic , union officials said.
In addition to raises, which United Teachers Los Angeles officials said would allow employees to afford to live in communities where they work, the union wants the following:
- Reduced class sizes across all grade levels and school types. Class sizes would be reduced by two students in the 2023-24 school year, and by another two students the next year.
- Improved special education services, including capping class sizes and caseloads.
- More counselors, pupil services and attendance (PSA) counselors, psychiatric social workers (PSW) and psychologists, plus $5,000 retention stipends, paid over three years, to PSAs, PSWs and academic counselors at schools within the Black Student Achievement Plan initiative.
- A full-time librarian for every elementary school with 250 or more students and a part-time librarian for smaller schools.
- At least one college counselor for each high school with at least 350 students.
- Investments in arts and physical education and programs that serve the whole child.
- Substantial salary increases for nurses.
- Allow school site councils to have more say about their school budget, professional development and other local site decisions.
- Expand community schools and the Black Student Achievement Plan initiative.
- Address food and housing insecurity and environmental issues impacting students.
- End standardized tests that aren’t mandated by the state or federal government.
UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz called the proposal the union’s “most ambitious bargaining platform” ever, three years after members went on strike for six school days.
The pandemic laid bare the inequities faced by many schools and communities LAUSD serves, she said during a press call with reporters on Friday, May 13.
“Now is the time to actually invest in our schools, invest in our educators and invest in our students in a way that is far (more) creative and imaginative than we could even think of,” she said.
In an email to UTLA members this week, Myart-Cruz said the district has $3 billion in reserves which she said should be invested in students and employees.
UTLA Executive Director Jeff Good, who co-chairs the union’s bargaining committee, said the district tends to under-project its revenues and over-project its expenditures when budgeting, and that historically the district has maintained unrestricted reserves at 25 to 30 times the legal requirement.
When asked how the district would pay for pay raises the union has proposed, Good said there is reason to believe the district may see an increase in ongoing state funding.
“We know that the social-emotional needs of students demands lower class sizes, demands more social workers, demands more psychologists, demands more counselors,” Good said. “And the only way to get people into those positions is to pay our educators more. They need to improve the working conditions of those educators as well.”
Last year, the school board approved hiring several thousand new employees as part of a recovery plan to help students catch up and to address their social-emotional needs following the pandemic. But nationwide staff shortages have warned the district’s plan to hire more reading and math specialists, counselors, psychiatric social workers and others.
By late March, about three-quarters of the way through this school year, more than 1,400 so-called Path to Recovery positions had not been filled.
Union officials said the district agreed during contract negotiations three years ago to hire enough nurses to provide one on every campus. While giving the district credit for attempting to honor the agreement, UTLA Secretary and Bargaining Co-chair Arlene Inouye said that with school nurses being paid about half of what they could make in the private sector, it’s been difficult to attract or retain qualified people.
“We’ve chosen this profession because we believe in a quality, public education for every single child,” Inouye said. “We want to serve our communities. … But it can’t be and it must not be at the expense of our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.”
A spokesperson for the district did not respond to a question about how much money LA Unified has in reserves, but in a statement noted that the parties met Thursday to begin negotiations on a new contract.
“We look forward to continued engagement in the negotiations process to reach reasonable agreements that improve outcomes and opportunities for all students,” the LAUSD statement said.
UTLA’s current contract will expire June 30.
The union represents about 35,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and other certified employees.