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L.A. Teachers to Meet With School District Today, But Vow To Strike in January If There’s No Deal

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]eachers in Los Angeles are meeting with members of a fact-finding panel and representatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District Monday in an 11th hour attempt to avoid a possible walk out. Teachers  have vowed to strike in January if they’re not offered a better deal.

The union representing some 30,000 teachers in the city has been locked in intense labor contract talks with LAUSD for more than a year. Those negotiations entered their final phase late last month with the convening of a state mandated fact-finding panel.

“It would be wrong of me to say I do not expect facts to come out of the fact finding report,” said Larry Shoham, a West Area representative on the union’s 50-member Board of Directors. “But from what I have heard in the past is that sometimes the fact finding process is biased toward the employer.”

RELATED: ‘They Can’t Be Trusted’: L.A. Teachers Reject Latest District Raise Offer, Enter Mediation

The three-person panel has 30 days to submit non-binding recommendations. Their deadline is Dec. 14. That's the same day teachers across the city turn in their final grades and the last day before schools start winter break. Teachers plan a march at Grand Park in downtown L.A. on Dec. 15.

LAUSD could accommodate union demands, and the teachers could accept a last ditch deal, but hopes of that happening look slim. UTLA’s planned march in downtown could be a celebration of a new labor contract for teachers, Shoham told L.A. Taco. But the march could instead be a show of force by the union for teacher demands, he said.

“We want members to be prepared to do something in January if the process takes us to January,” Shoham said. “We want to settle this dispute. We don’t want to go on strike.”

[dropcap size=big]U[/dropcap]TLA’s public actions as outlined in a flyer posted on their website late last month will most likely dominate the news cycle this month leading up to the march. But the panel’s findings have the potential of impacting public opinion, depending on whether they bolster the district’s financial projections or help the teachers union.

The district is sitting on about $1.6 billion dollars in a reserve fund. The union says the district should spend that money now on badly needed education services, such as hiring more nurses and counselors, and on reducing class sizes.

Los Angeles has the second-largest district in the country, with more than 600,000 students attending K-12 schools. The city hasn’t seen a teachers strike in a generation. The last one happened in 1989.

“There has been no genuine movement by the school district to improve learning conditions at our schools,” said Soni Lloyd, a teacher at Venice High School and a union representative at his school. “We are really left with no choice but to move forward with our strike plans.”

In the event of a teacher strike, school district leaders have promised schools would remain open and students would receive instruction no matter what, even if that means hiring thousands of temporary substitute teachers and district administrators teaching classes themselves.

Even if a last minute deal recommended by the fact-finding panel fails this month, parents and other Angelenos have a little breathing room. A strike would most likely not begin until after teachers and students return from their three-week winter break on Jan. 7.

RELATED: L.A. Teachers Strike Vote Update: LAUSD and Union Exchange Accusations as Voting Winds Down

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