LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Unified School District has filed papers in federal court seeking an order to prevent a strike by members of United Teachers Los Angeles who provide "special-education support and services to more than 60,000 students."
The union, which represents more than 30,000 teachers, has scheduled a strike for Jan. 10 if a contract agreement isn't reached.
"To protect more than 60,000 special-needs students, Los Angeles Unified is seeking approval to move forward with a complaint to prevent UTLA leadership and its members from engaging in a denial of services to special needs students during a strike," General Counsel David Holmquist said in a statement. "A strike would be detrimental to students with disabilities and their families, depriving the students of the special-education support and services they rely on each day."
Such students are protected by federal and state special-education laws, and LAUSD is monitored under a modified federal consent decree for special education, according to the district.
District officials said they are seeking permission to move forward with a complaint in Los Angeles federal court to ensure that special-needs students do not lose access to services they need if UTLA moves forward with a planned Jan. 10 teacher walkout.
UTLA responded to LAUSD's legal move with a statement on Thursday night.
"If [LAUSD Superintendent Austin] Beutner really cared about special education students, he would have responded to our proposals on special education class-size caps, which would relieve the burden of our overcrowded classrooms and overwhelming caseloads," said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. "It is disingenuous to recognize the value of our teachers only in the role they play during a strike while working to undermine them as they seek better working conditions for themselves and learning conditions for their students through the bargaining process."
UTLA represents more than 30,000 teachers. The union and district have been mired in contract talks for two years without reaching a resolution.
"I think that the strike is all but inevitable, but I hope that it will be short lived," Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference Thursday.
Garcetti is offering space in City Hall that he's calling a neutral place for the teachers union and the school district to try and hammer out their differences.
"I don't think as much separates both sides as you might hear. I think in terms of pay, there's not a lot that separates them. I think that everybody wants to make class sizes the right size. I think everybody wants to have support staff. The question is where does that money come from and how do we do that?" Garcetti said.
UTLA rejected the district's latest offer because the pay raise the district offered is still contingent on healthcare rollbacks, the proposed contract allows the district to raise class sizes and the district is not offering enough additional resources for the number of nurses counselors and librarians that are needed.
Labor negotiators from both sides are tentatively expected to meet Monday for a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement. A possible strike could begin as soon as Jan. 10.
"In the end, the longer this drags on, the more our children and the more our city will suffer," Garcetti said.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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