Both Sides Exchange Accusations, Fly To Sacramento
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Negotiators for striking teachers and the school district flew separately to Sacramento on Tuesday for meetings with state legislators as both sides blamed the other for failing to end the walkout.
″It just has to come to an end soon ... I’m angry, I’m hurt, and I’m disappointed,″ Carole Keen, president of the 10th District PTA, said as the strike entered its 10th day in the nation’s second largest school district.
The strike has cut deeply into attendance by the more than half million students of the Los Angeles Unified School District, while the majority of the United Teachers-Los Angeles members remained out of school.
The district canceled its 4-A division baseball championship playoffs because of the walkout, affecting 16 senior high school boys’ teams. The head coaches of all the teams refused to break their strike, the district said.
There were contradictory statements from both sides on what was last placed on the bargaining table for consideration Sunday night, when talks collapsed.
Teachers want a 22 percent pay raise over two years and have indicated they would take a 26 percent pay hike over three years. They earn between $23,440 and $43,319 a year, depending on experience and level of education.
Education in the district has slowed to a crawl since the union representing 22,000 of the district’s 32,000 teachers went on strike May 15. Most classes wind up June 23, but some schools operate year-round.
It is the district’s first strike since a 23-day walkout in 1970.
UTLA president Wayne Johnson and Superintendent Leonard Britton met separately behind closed doors with the Los Angeles delegation of the state legislature to discuss ways of securing the school district’s projected $48.5 million share of an anticipated two-year state tax surplus of $2.5 billion.
Johnson said board members were misinformed about the contract offer teachers rejected, and blamed chief district negotiator Dick Fisher for the confusion. He said at least four of the seven board members should attend future negotiating sessions.
On Monday, board member Jackie Goldberg, who has generally supported the union, contradicted a statement by Johnson that the board had not offered teachers anything new before the break-off in talks. ″I think people have the right to know what really happened,″ she said.
She said the board offered a 24 percent raise over three years with no conditions.
Johnson called Fisher ″a major impediment toward a settlement.″
″This guy wants to keep a strike going and is doing it by confusing the board and by confusing the issues,″ he added. ″You’ve got the whole process in absolute turmoil.″
Johnson insisted, ″There was no money proposal even proposed Sunday night ... I’ll take a polygraph on it.″
But Fisher said Tuesday the 24 percent offer, 8 percent each year, was made as an ″informal, exploratory package″ through a state mediator. The second- year raise was contingent on the district receiving the state tax surplus funds. Otherwise, the raise for the second year would be dropped to 5 1/2 percent.
″That offer was immediately and angrily rejected by the UTLA negotiators, and therefore no longer remains on the table,″ Fisher said in a statement.
School district spokeswoman Eva Hain said the idea of having at least a majority of school board members present at negotiations has been suggested before by Johnson. She said adding school board members might slow the negotiations.
Currently, each side has three negotiators. The school board is represented by President Roberta Weintraub.