Growing increasingly frustrated on a wide array of issues, members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) were set to demonstrate Thursday, December 6th, in front of the Los Angeles Unified District (LAUSD) headquarters in downtown Los Angeles and Local District One headquarters in the San Fernando Valley.
Representatives of the teachers union say that the ongoing payroll debacle and the fact that the school district has not budgeted any money for teachers’ salary increases for the next scholastic year are major points of contention.
Teachers will be writing on Post-it notes at the demonstration in an attempt to send a message to the school district. They are demanding that district officials ask for and act upon teacher input if the district’s educational goals are going to succeed.
“Teachers are critical to the success of the district’s educational programs,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles in a statement. “The district must respect teachers as professionals and collaborate with them rather than dictating mandates from above.”
The union president told The Argonaut in an earlier interview that his union was considering drafting a letter to each school site in the district, asking its union representatives if teachers are willing to consider a one-day walkout at some point.
“It is an action that is certainly not off the table,” he said.
The union is in the midst of contract negotiations with the school district on salary and health benefits, among other things. Union officials are growing frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations as well as what they call recent top-down, one-size-fits-all district mandates, such as “mid-year renorming” and the district’s new High Priority Schools Plan, which teachers feel are not in the best interest of students. The continuing payroll crisis remains a sore point, despite district officials’ assurances that the problems are being rectified.
“I am happy to report that we have succeeded in correcting a major defect with our payroll system,” LAUSD superintendent David L. Brewer wrote in a letter mailed to employees Friday, November 2nd.
Duffy and several teachers say that while some have seen an improvement in their paycheck situation, others continue to have money taken out of their paychecks or have not been paid at all.
Now in its 11th month, the controversy took on another dimension when the district announced last month that it would begin charging teachers for overpayments that district officials allege have been made to certificated personnel, which includes teachers, counselors and principals.
While teachers concede that there have been some overpayments, many say that the district is unable to prove that it can accurately document how much those teachers would owe because of the year-long payroll snafu.
The district has hired a consultant to restructure the payroll system, but has chosen not to install a new software system.
“We are still using the same computer model,” David Holmquist, the district’s interim chief operating officer confirmed. “We still have all of the complexities of what we have with our certificated employees.”
In addition to the planned protest, teachers and union officials have also continued with demonstrations at “Camp Beaudry,” which are protests at the downtown headquarters to call attention to the payroll crisis.
Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters is at 333 S. Beaudry Ave. in Los Angeles, and Local District 1 is at 6621 Balboa Blvd., Lake Balboa.