UTLA's planned strike can begin Monday, judge rules; LAUSD's request for restraining order denied

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A judge ruled that the union representing Los Angeles Unified School District teachers can proceed with its planned strike on Monday.

A judge ruled Thursday morning that the union representing Los Angeles Unified School District teachers can proceed with its planned strike on Monday, rejecting the district's attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order.

United Teachers Los Angeles settled on Monday as the strike date in response to LAUSD challenging Thursday's scheduled start time in court. The district alleged it was not officially given 10-day notice as required by state law.

MORE: Guide for LAUSD parents should a strike happen

LAUSD attorneys tried to argue that the teachers union violated the collective bargaining agreement by encouraging the strike before and during the strike-notification period. Therefore, the district felt it did not get 10 clean days of notice.

The judge said that since the union informed the school district of a planned strike again on Jan. 3, and the strike has been pushed back to Jan. 14 - it all constitutes 10 days of notice.

However, the school district still has other legal options. It can appeal this decision or file a case against the union for damages caused by encouraging the strike during the contract period. Those actions would most likely have to be taken on Friday since the courts generally do not conduct business over weekends.

The strike will occur as planned Monday unless UTLA sees a "serious" proposal before then, said the union's president, Alex Caputo-Pearl.

The LAUSD released the following statement after Thursday's ruling:

"Los Angeles Unified is willing to work around the clock to avoid a strike that will harm the students, families and communities most in need."

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Another round of talks between UTLA and the LAUSD is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday. If the strike does occur as planned, it will be the first since 1989.

Some 30,000 teachers are set to strike if an agreement can't be reached.

The strike would affect nearly half a million students. The district and the teachers union are at odds over the size of a proposed raise, along with how much money should be spent to add support staff, reduce class sizes and other issues.

The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6-percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract, while UTLA wants a 6.5-percent raise that would take effect all at once and a year sooner.

UTLA also says it wants "fully staffed'' schools with more nurses, librarians and counselors added to the payrolls, along with pledges to reduce class sizes.

On Monday, the LAUSD raised its previous offer by $75 million to add more than 1,000 staff members to schools and help decrease class sizes, up from an initial offer of $30 million.

The teachers union rejected that offer Monday, calling it unacceptable.

Caputo-Pearl argued the offer would not make a significant impact and could actually end up raising class sizes. He also said the offer was a spending plan which would only last one year. He also said the district's raise offer for teachers would be contingent on cutting future health care benefits, which the union could not accept.

Also, the union claims Superintendent Austin Beutner is hoarding nearly $2 billion in surplus funds.

UTLA argues that the reserve could be tapped to pay for its demands, while Beutner has said the reserve has already been fully earmarked, including for the potential raises for teachers. He has argued the UTLA demands will push the district into insolvency.

If a strike does happen, the LAUSD Board of Education says it has already hired 400 substitute teachers.

On Thursday, the district launched a strike hotline for parents and guardians who have questions about the operation of schools during the strike. The hotline number is (213) 443-1300. It is being staffed by district representatives Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Callers during off-hours will be directed to the district's website.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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