Can you see where this is headed?
LAUSD superintendent warns of layoffs as teachers union prepares to strike
As the teachers union ramps up strike preparations, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines on Friday discussed union demands, the district's budget deficit and layoffs.
With a projected deficit of nearly $160 million and no money in the reserve fund, Cortines wants every department to make cuts ranging from 7 percent to 10 percent in hopes of balancing the budget by the July 1 start of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year.
"I'm not sure I can do it," Cortines said.
Despite his doubts, Cortines will try to zero out the deficit by eliminating some positions. The first round of pink slips — notifying teachers and other staff they have 60 days left on the job – will be mailed Mar. 15.
Cortines called the meeting one day after UTLA made its first official move toward a strike, calling an "impasse" Thursday after 18 rounds and seven months of negotiations.
The two sides remain divided around three key issues: pay raises, staffing levels and teacher evaluations. LAUSD officials estimate that meeting the union's demands for an 8.5 percent pay raise, more teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians will cost $800 million more than the current offer.
Cortines said he doesn't believe "we can afford any more than we're doing right now."
"They have not given the negotiating team where we would find that money," Cortines said. "And I don't think you can ask if you don't know where you're going to get the money."
United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said Cortines is creating hypothetical budget problems, as the state continues to increase the district's funding. It's intended to "paint a bleak picture to scare people," he said.
"We're tired of hearing the district say they can't afford things," Caputo-Pearl said. "There's a few different points on that; if the district feels it can't afford our proposal on class size reductions or proposal on getting nurses and librarians in schools, then they should give us a counter proposal, but they haven't done that."
After regional rallies that drew several thousand teachers last year and picket lines at campuses across LAUSD earlier this month, the union will assemble "tens of thousands" of teachers at Grand Park on Feb. 26. The demonstration was planned just ahead of the Mar. 3 school board election.
A strike, Cortines said, would exacerbate the district's budget deficit by causing it to lose even more students to charter schools. LAUSD's primary source of funding is based on student enrollment.
"I think what has bothered me about the whole negotiation is the constant talk about a work stoppage," he said.
Caputo-Pearl said a strike is a last resort, but the union needs to prepare. LAUSD, meanwhile, should focus its efforts on "reaching a settlement, not issuing threats about how much damage teachers will do to the district if we go on strike," he said.
"What has damaged the district and driven students to charter schools is class sizes of over 45 students and schools without libraries and schools that aren't cleaned," Caputo-Pearl said. "That's what we should be concerned about."
Cortines also called on the teachers union to help create an evaluation system that works. At the very minimum, Cortines said, such an evaluation system would need three different types of ratings to preserve $59 million in federal funding. The district's previous evaluation system only had two ratings, meet or does not meet standards.
Earlier this week, LAUSD lawyers claimed a "constitutional crisis" has deprived students of their right to an education and warranted an evaluation system that was imposed in 2013 without the consent of UTLA. The argument was made in documents LAUSD filed in appeal of a December ruling. The tentative order by a judge for California's Public Employment Relations Board would force LAUSD to repeal the evaluation system and re-negotiate with UTLA.
"If Cortines was really interested in taking care of that issue, the district would not have appealed the decision," Caputo-Pearl said. "There are hundreds and thousands of teachers just like me across the district, who if given the opportunity would come together and create a truly collaborative teacher support, development and evaluation plan."
The impasse will be considered by California's Public Employment Relations Board. If the board agrees, a mediator will be called in. Should the mediator fail to help the two sides reach an agreement, a fact-finding panel will be assembled from representatives of UTLA, LAUSD and an independent party. The panel can make recommendations that neither side is required to accept.