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L.A. school district changes plan for expanded school year under teachers union pressure

Under pressure from the teachers union, Los Angeles school officials have changed their plan to create four optional “acceleration days” to boost student learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of taking place on Wednesdays at what the district had described as strategic points of the school year, the days will fall at the beginning of winter break and spring break under a tentative agreement, the teachers union announced Wednesday.

Union members must still approve the deal, according to United Teachers Los Angeles.

Under the original schedule, the first of these days was set to take place in three weeks, on Wednesday Oct. 19, but the potential value of that particular day had become increasingly uncertain.

Under the announced agreement, the original four acceleration days will revert to regular school days and the school year will end four days earlier as a result.

Under the new plan, the acceleration days will fall on Monday, Dec. 19; Tuesday, Dec. 20; Monday, April 3, and Tuesday, April 4.

The teachers union had characterized the acceleration days as a waste of time and money, but accepted the revised schedule as offering a better continuation of learning and “fidelity to the contractual work year. “

The most recent posted teachers union counteroffer was structured like the agreement that emerged, but had scheduled two acceleration days during the Monday and Tuesday of the weeklong Thanksgiving break rather than at the start of the three-week winter break.

The teachers union had called for its members to boycott the upcoming extra learning day on Oct. 19, even though it was optional and teachers would have received extra pay. The day also was optional for students, and was targeted to help those who most needed academic assistance.

But the union had contended that the district had no right to schedule the extra learning days without first taking the matter to labor negotiations. In addition to calling for the boycott, the union filed paperwork with the state labor board, alleging an illegal act and asking for state officials to intervene.

The filing of the complaint would not have immediately prevented the nation’s second-largest school system from carrying out its schedule as intended. But principals reported that the uncertainty over how many teachers would attend made it difficult to assure the extra learning time would be useful for students.

United Teachers Los Angeles filed the complaint, called an unfair practice charge, with the California Public Employment Relations Board, which would investigate the allegations. The union wanted the labor board to advise — and, if necessary, compel — L.A. Unified to “immediately” withdraw the four school days and “return to the status quo.”

After that, the union said, the district could begin to “bargain in good faith over the amount and distribution of employee work days (voluntary and mandatory) and other consequential terms and conditions of employment.”

Even though the district defended its actions as legally appropriate, it opted to enter into negotiations over the matter with UTLA — a decision that culminated in the revised plan.

Details of the alternative proposal emerged early Wednesday in an email that another union, Local 99 of Service Employees International, sent to its members. Local 99 asked its members to weigh in because, if the alternate plan were approved, some of them would be needed to work those additional days. That union’s members include teacher aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians.

The school district had no immediate comment on the calendar change.

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