L.A. School Board Calls for State to Enact Moratorium on New Charter Schools Within LAUSD

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LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, Austin Beutner and Monica Garcia appear in a meeting in this undated photo. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, Austin Beutner and Monica Garcia appear in a meeting in this undated photo. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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The board of the nation’s second-largest school district gave final approval Tuesday to a contract that ended a six-day teacher strike and provided another concession to Los Angeles educators by asking California to halt new charter schools until their effect can be studied.

The votes by the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education came just hours after an oversight agency said the contract agreement that includes pay raises and a commitment to reduce class sizes may not be sustainable because of the district’s precarious long-term financial outlook.

Board member Nick Melvoin acknowledged the difficulties outlined in the report by the Los Angeles County Office of Education but said the deal showed that both sides can work together.

“It’s up to us, collectively, to make it sustainable,” he said, adding that the district and the union must work to get more state funding.

The 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles already approved the agreement, which runs through June 2022. Teachers returned to work last week after walking picket lines for six days.

A few hundred protesters outside the board meeting shouted their opposition to placing limits on the growth of charters, which are privately operated, mostly non-union public schools. Opponents say charters draw away students from traditional public schools and the money that goes with them.

The charter resolution, which the union pushed during negotiations, is not part of the contract. LAUSD agreed to put it before the board as a gesture of good faith. It requests an 8-to-10 month hold on new charters while the state examines their fiscal impact on the district.

The resolution passed 5-1, with Melvoin the sole dissenting vote, but only the state can put a moratorium in place or change charter laws.

Before the meeting, the LA County Office of Education said the new contract would require a “detailed fiscal stabilization plan” that addresses how the district will pay for increased salaries while keeping up its minimum reserves.

“Based on the district’s own financial analysis, it is unable to meet reserve requirements in 2020-21 indicating the agreement is not sustainable on an ongoing basis,” according to the analysis from the office that oversees the budgets of school systems in the county.

The school district is projecting a half-billion-dollar deficit this budget year and has billions obligated for pension payments and health coverage for retired teachers.

District Superintendent Austin Beutner said “every nickel” is accounted for and the district will have to rely on promises in the governor’s budget as well as seek “additional sources of funding.”

“It reflects something we can all live with,” he said of the contract.

The district spans Los Angeles, all or parts of 31 smaller cities, and several unincorporated areas of LA County. In California, county offices of education are required, among other duties, to ensure the fiscal solvency of school districts.

The contract approval comes as Denver teachers push to strike after more than a year of negotiations. State officials could intervene if they decide it’s in the public interest and delay the walkout by up to 180 days.

In Oakland, teachers will vote this week on whether to strike amid their contract negotiations, which hinge partly on a demand for smaller class sizes.

Correction: An earlier version of the headline and lead for this story incorrectly indicated the board was calling for a statewide moratorium on charter schools. The resolution calls for state action to halt new charters with the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

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