LAUSD teachers to boycott first of 4 scheduled 'optional' instructional days

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers have voted overwhelmingly to boycott the first of four "optional" instruction days that were added to the LAUSD's academic calendar this year without union negotiations.

The union representing the teachers announced the vote results Friday.

"The district chose to add these `Accelerated Days' at a cost of about $122 million without consulting with parents, teachers or other school workers," United Teachers Los Angeles -- which is involved in ongoing contract negotiations with the district -- announced.

"In response to this decision, 93% of UTLA members voted to boycott LAUSD's first `optional' day. In lieu of participating in this waste of taxpayer dollars, an overwhelming percentage of UTLA members have voted to partake in a boycott and rally alongside community members on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, the first listed optional date."

The union also labeled the addition of the optional days as a "$122 million stunt" that "prioritizes optics over student needs."

In response, an LAUSD representative said Friday, "Los Angeles Unified is seeking to provide additional instruction to students identified as in need of intensive intervention. This is to accelerate students' progress toward grade-level proficiency, social emotional learning and high school graduation, while providing teachers and other employees an opportunity to earn extra pay."

The representative also added a "point of clarification" regarding the union's $122 million figure, saying, "the $122 million budgeted is inclusive of $52 million to pay employees to attend the three optional professional development days held on Aug. 9, 10 and 11. The majority of educators participated in these optional, paid adult learning days."

The upcoming optional days are scheduled to be held on Oct. 19, Dec. 7, March 15 and April 19.

Earlier this month, the UTLA filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the district over the optional days issue.

At the time, the UTLA called the move an overstepping of the district's authority and a failure to include teachers in discussions about how to recover learning time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the district, contract negotiators met on Thursday and will convene again just after Labor Day to continue discussions.

"We look forward to reaching a fair and timely agreement that ultimately benefits both students and educators across Los Angeles Unified, while continuing to work toward our goal to make Los Angeles Unified the premier urban school district in the nation," the district representative said.

The additional school days were announced in April. At the time, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the additional days "will be designed to provide a deep level of supplemental academic support for our students who need it the most -- students who have lost the most ground, students in foster care, students with English language limitations or one or more disabilities. We must have the courage and compassion to provide extended quality instruction time for these students and professional development for our teachers."

On Friday, the union said the optional days "are to distract from the district's refusal to support an equitable education for all students by denying our children support and services proven to ensure student success."

"By arbitrarily scattering these days throughout the school calendar, real teaching and learning will be disrupted and dollars that were meant to be used on education will be wasted," the union said.

In the Friday statement, the union also said the district needs to spend the funds allocated for the optional days in other ways.

"LAUSD must reallocate the funds being used on the `Accelerated Days' to the programs, services and staff roles proven to have a long term positive impact on student learning and career outcomes," the union said.

"This means ensuring every school site has a nurse on staff every day. Currently, 80% of LAUSD schools do not have a full-time nurse, and 15% of schools in South Los Angeles have no allocated nurse time whatsoever."

The union also cited a need for "smaller class sizes and increased salaries for teachers to ensure long term retention of quality educators," along with added support for special education programs such as arts, music, ethnic studies, dual-language programs, tutoring, outdoor education, and field trips.

In addition, the union said, "The mental health needs of our students cannot be overlooked and more counselors, psychologists, and school social workers must be available at all school sites. Lastly, the school district must seriously support the housing, environmental, immigration, and COVID recovery needs in our communities."