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LAUSD Teachers Have Set A Date To Go On Strike

Members and supporters of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing L.A. Unified School District teachers, wave signs during a demonstration along Firestone Boulevard in South Gate on Weds., Oct. 24, 2018. (Photo by Kyle Stokes/KPCC)
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UPDATED, Dec. 19, 12 p.m. -- For more than a year, parents of the 480,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District have anxiously watched a low-simmering contract dispute with the district's teachers union, wondering when the feud might boil over.

On Wednesday, parents got their answer.

Teachers union leaders announced they will call a strike on Jan. 10 if they haven't reached a contract agreement with LAUSD by then. It would be the first work stoppage called by United Teachers Los Angeles since the union's nine-day strike in 1989.

At a press conference, UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said union negotiators would not return to the bargaining table until the district takes "a different approach to having discussions."

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"We're not going to go through another 20 months of unfair bargaining practices on the part of the district," Caputo-Pearl said. "We have several core issues they've literally never responded to -- around early education, regulation of charter [schools], limiting standardized tests."

"The district knows where we are," Caputo-Pearl added. "We're right down the street from each other."

The announcement comes one day after a neutral third party -- known as a fact-finder -- unveiled recommendations for settling the dispute.

But neither UTLA nor LAUSD is bound to accept the fact-finder's suggestions. With the release of the fact-finder's report, there's nothing to legally stop UTLA from striking.

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READ MORE: A comprehensive guide to the UTLA-LAUSD dispute, including a breakdown of the issues at stake.

On Tuesday, the fact-finder validated some of the arguments that both sides had been making at the bargaining table.

He urged to UTLA settle at the district's salary offer and concluded that both the union and LAUSD had valid points about regulating class sizes. The fact-finder pushed the two sides to return to the table to resolve the outstanding class size points and punt on almost all other outstanding items as too complicated, too ambitious or too costly.

LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner may have inflamed tensions further with his comments about the fact-finding report. Materials displayed next to Beutner at a press conference Tuesday claimed UTLA had "agreed" to the district's salary offer -- a 6 percent raise.

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"The report says LAUSD's offer of 6 percent is appropriate," he said, "and UTLA has agreed that it's appropriate."

Afterward, UTLA leaders accused Beutner of stretching the facts. The union has not agreed to a 6 percent raise as a matter of contract negotiations; the union's appointee to the fact-finding panel had merely concurred with the fact-finder's recommendation of accepting the district's salary offer.

"Implying that an agreement has been reached," Caputo-Pearl said in a statement, "tells us he is more interested in perpetuating falsehoods than finding a real path to an agreement."

Teachers have been working without a contract for more than a year, and negotiations have been ongoing since as early as January 2017. In July of this year, teachers declared an impasse and walked away from unmediated contract talks. Mediation followed in the fall, but proved unsuccesful.

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UPDATED, Dec. 19, 12 p.m.: This story was updated to include new comments from Caputo-Pearl.

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