UTLA president has 'open mind' about new LAUSD proposal

A Los Angeles judge on Thursday found no reason to delay an expected teachers strike next week against the nation's second-largest school district over wages and class sizes.

Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled on the issue of whether United Teachers Los Angeles had given legally proper notice of a work stoppage to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The district, with 640,000 students, said in a statement after the ruling that it's willing to negotiate "around the clock" and urged UTLA to work with it to resolve contract issues and avoid a strike.

Talks were set to resume Friday in which the LAUSD said they will make a new proposal to the teachers union that would include additional funding to reduce class sizes and provide more support for teachers all in an effort to avoid a teachers strike.

Schools would stay open during a possible strike. The district has hired hundreds of substitutes to replace teachers and others who could leave for picket lines.

The district has offered a 6 percent raise over the first two years of a three-year contract. The union wants a 6.5 percent hike that would take effect all at once and be retroactive to fiscal 2017. Health care fully paid by the district and a pension plan would be unchanged under both proposals.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials said they will make a new proposal to the teachers union on Friday in an effort to avoid a planned strike Monday -- an offer that includes additional funding to reduce class sizes and provide more support for teachers, which comes hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a proposed budget for 2019-20 that would increase spending for public education.

United Teachers Los Angeles is threatening to direct its members to strike on Monday, and reducing class sizes has been one of its demands, although issues over a pay raise, charter schools, the staffing level of nurses, counselors and librarians, and other issues have also been areas of conflict with the district in contract negotiations.

Newsom's budget would spend a record $80.7 billion on K-12 schools and community colleges, up from the roughly $78 billion included in the previous budget.

"Yesterday, we spoke with state leaders in Sacramento about our shared commitment to public education, and the budget announced today by the governor is a strong statement of those values," LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "All of the legislative leaders we met with yesterday expressed their commitment to public education."

He added, "We expect the final budget adopted in June will reflect these values and provide additional funding for Los Angeles Unified. Our commitment to our students, families and educators is to invest this additional money in reducing class size and supporting classroom educators. We hope UTLA will work with us to resolve the remaining contract issues so we can keep kids safe and learning in school."

Newsom's beefed-up education budget comes amid a flurry of activity this week surrounding UTLA's strike threat.

The district has said the union's demands could bankrupt the school system, which is projecting a half-billion-dollar deficit this budget year and has billions obligated for pension payments and health coverage for retired teachers.

Union officials previously said its 35,000 members would walk off the job Thursday for the first time in three decades if a deal wasn't reached on higher pay and smaller class sizes.

They delayed the strike until Monday while awaiting the court ruling to avoid confusion and give teachers, parents and others time to prepare.

The Associated Press and CNS contributed to this report.