LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has offered to serve as mediator in renewed contract talks proposed for Thursday between negotiators for 30,000 striking teachers and the nation’s second-largest school district, union leaders said.
There was no immediate word from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to the overture from the United Teachers Los Angeles, but union President Alex Caputo-Pearl he expected talks to resume through the weekend.
Late on Wednesday, union officials said the mayor, who has voiced support for the teachers’ cause, had met with both parties as the strike stretched through its third day.
California’s top education official, its superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, “has also been in touch with both parties and offered support in the process,” Arlene Inouye, chair of the union’s bargaining team, told a news conference.
Thurmond could play a key role in helping the district secure extra funding it may need to close a deal with the teachers, who are pressing for higher pay, smaller classes and more support staff.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has insisted that meeting the teachers’ demands would pose too great a strain on the district’s budget.
Caputo-Pearl said the union was counting on Thurmond and Garcetti to help make the case that sufficient funds are available.
“California is the richest state in the union,” he told reporters. “The money is there for the kids.”
Negotiators for the two sides have not met since union leaders rejected the LAUSD’s latest contract offer last Friday night, setting the stage for the district’s first teachers’ strike in 30 years.
The teachers, who have been without a contract for nearly a year, walked off the job on Monday, disrupting classes for nearly 500,000 students as LAUSD officials kept schools open on a limited basis with skeleton staff.
Earlier, Beutner had accused union officials of stonewalling further attempts at negotiation, an assertion denied by Caputo-Pearl, who said Beutner had skipped two bargaining sessions before talks collapsed.
Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Gina Cherelus in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez