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As strike looms, what is the teachers union demanding?

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Photo by Jenny Hamel

The teachers union and LAUSD officials didn’t come to an agreement on Monday after a long day of last-ditch negotiations. The two sides are expected to meet again Wednesday, one day before teachers would head to the picket lines. If talks fall apart, it would be the first teachers strike in 30 years.

The district offered an extra $75 million to hire more nurses, teachers and librarians. That brings the total to $105 million. This has been one of the union’s big demands. But Alex Caputo-Pearl, head of the union, suggests there are two problems with that.

He tells Press Play that their proposal raises class sizes permanently across the board — as high as 39 students in elementary school, and 46 students in high school; and they’re keeping a provision that would allow them to exceed those class size caps.

The money is also only a one-year commitment, he points out, and it would only bring in one extra staff person per school across the city.

Caputo-Pearl says $200 million would be needed to help reduce class sizes — plus additional money to ensure that full-time nurses and counselors are in place.

A big sticking point is over the $2 billion in reserves that LAUSD has. The district says the money is already accounted for, and a large portion of it would go towards raising teachers’ salaries by 6 percent over the next three years.

Caputo-Pearl says that reserve has been growing, and the district is wrong when they predict a fiscal cliff happening three years from now.

He’s also very critical of LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.

“Austin Beutner is trying to use — talking about the state as a decoys, saying ‘don’t focus on the $2 billion reserve that LAUSD has.’ We’re not interested in decoys. We’re interested in results for our kids. So we’re going after a $2 billion dollar reserve, a record breaking reserve here in L.A. And we’re pursuing work in Sacramento, not just around per pupil funding, but also around regulation of charter schools.”

Beutner has an investment banking background, and little experience in education.

“He comes out of a privatization-backed and charter industry-backed majority on the school board. The industry bought the school board for $13 million last year — in the most expensive race in U.S. history. And they are promoting a privatization agenda and a downsizing agenda,” Caputo-Pearl says.

If the teachers do strike, Caputo-Pearl can’t predict how long it will last. “Our schools have been the subject of underfunding, and the subject of a privatization endeavor for well over a decade. If it takes a short amount of time of disruption to actually turn around that 10 year disruption to our kids, then we’ll do that. But we expect that it will be short, and that people will be very involved. And we want the district to come to the table with real with real substantive proposals to end it.”

What do you want to know about the looming strike?