Teachers Union and School District Reach Compromise in LA

While the wrangling over a new contract continues in Chicago, in Los Angeles, teachers unions and the Los Angeles Unified School District have come to a tentative agreement last week, both saying "yes" to a compromise plan that would spare teacher jobs at the price of shortening the school year by a week with an addition of ten furlough days. The loss of pay for 5 work-days, 4 holidays, and 1 training day will add up to about a 5% paycut.

The deal has already been ratified by teachers, and the Los Angeles Board of Education has also given its blessing. The contract proposal now goes before the general union membership and the school board. The board will vote on it today, and teachers will begin to cast their vote one day later, on Wednesday.

The deal is contingent on the voter approval of two additional fundraising measures that are on the ballot this November. If both pass, some of the furlough days might be canceled, and the schools will remain open for the entire length of the academic year. If both fail, however, the school district might find itself forced to cut three additional instructional weeks from the calendar, shrinking the year from its typical length of 180 school days.

If the governor's tax initiative passes, union officials said any additional money must go toward reducing the number of furlough days. And if teachers take the furlough days and the district ends up with a year-end surplus, teachers would be reimbursed for the pay cut, the union said.

More than 9,000 teachers had faced being laid off as of June 30.

The deal to minimize job losses doesn't mean that all teacher jobs will be spared next year. Nearly 1,900 are expected to lose their positions, partly due to the squeezed school budgets, and partly due to declining student enrollment. Still, teachers are expressing relief that some accommodation was reached to preserve as many jobs as possible.

Parents who spoke about the compromise mostly share the teachers' point of view. Being forced to choose between two unappealing options, layoffs or furlough, furlough seemed like the least worst one.

"Between the two choices, the furlough days for teachers are preferable, but the state of public education is so sad and frightening," said Jia, whose daughter is a sixth-grader at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in Mid-City. Jia praised the teachers and the school but added "the teacher can only cram in so much information with fewer school days." She worried that a greater burden would fall on overworked or ill-prepared parents to fill in the gaps

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