Contract round up: Los Angeles and San Diego

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In this edition of Catching up on Contracts, we parse the major policy changes of the latest contracts in two large California districts: Los Angeles and San Diego.

Los Angeles Unified School District, July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017

Contract negotiations in sunny Southern California’s Los Angeles Unified School District faced some stormy times over the past year. The negotiation process included months of rallies, picketing and faculty-meeting boycotts, but LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) reached an agreement in May. The most notable changes in the contract include salaries, class size, excessing, grievances and evaluations.


No surprise here: salary was a major focus of UTLA’s demands, considering teachers hadn’t had a raise in eight years (aside from automatic step increases). The latest contract increases salaries by 10 percent over the contract’s term, phasing in the raises as follows:

  • 4 percent retroactive increase, effective July 1, 2014
  • 2 percent retroactive increase, effective January 1, 2015
  • 2 percent increase, effective July 1, 2015
  • 2 percent increase, effective January 1, 2016

Both sides agreed to reopen salary negotiations in 2016-2017.

Class size

The new contract brings two major changes to class size:

  • The K–3 class size cap drops from 32 (33 K) to 27 and the average class size drops from 27 to 24 students.
  • The district now has definitive class size caps for every grade, which are based on a formula where the cap is three students above the average limit (see chart below). Class size averages/caps are lower in predominately Hispanic, Black, Asian and other Non-Anglo schools.  

While UTLA considers the K-3 cap a major win, class size caps and averages actually increase at many grade levels in 2015-2016, a concession to the district’s declaring a fiscal emergency in the upcoming school year.

UTLA did agree to raise many class size limits in 2015-2016, but it insisted on clarification of the contract’s class size review process. The process allows UTLA to push for lower contractual averages and caps when negotiations reopen in 2015-2016. Previously, UTLA claimed the district could act unilaterally and ignore class size limits when it declared a fiscal emergency. There is now language in the contract that requires the district to provide UTLA a rationale and summary of its position, giving the union the opportunity to organize a response.

Additionally, the contract allows members to grieve violations of the class size caps and reestablishes and strengthens the Class Size Task Force, a group that has been inactive for many years. The task force includes UTLA and LAUSD representatives and will meet monthly to monitor class sizes, health and human services ratios and special education caseloads.


The latest contract includes a 2015-2016 MOU which introduces mutual consent hiring for teachers who face involuntary transfers due to under-enrollment, budget constraints and/or program changes. UTLA’s primary objective was to ensure that the district places excessed teachers in geographic proximity to their previous position. There are now four hiring periods for excessed teachers, the first and third of which include an interview process between principals and displaced teachers.

Teacher evaluations

LAUSD and UTLA have agreed to work together to create a new evaluation instrument for full implementation in 2016-2017. Before the new instrument rolls out, they agreed to changes in the current system, mostly designed to reduce the workload of administrators and teachers:

  • Instead of two formal observations and two informal growth plan observations, there will be only one of each.
  • Teacher post-observation, mid- and end-of-year growth plan reflections are now optional.
  • In a concession to the district, UTLA agreed to three, instead of two, final evaluation ratings: exceeds standards, meets standards and below standards.


UTLA sought and won some changes to the grievance process:

  • An informal conference between the grievant and the administrator is now required, whereas previously, it was only encouraged. UTLA thinks this will hold administrators more accountable for their actions.
  • Formal grievances must now be filed within 30 days of the act or omission that led to the grievance, an increase from the 15-day period required in the last contract.

San Diego Unified School District, July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017

Just to the south of Los Angeles, in even sunnier San Diego, the negotiation process between the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) was just as contentious. For over a year, SDEA conducted a campaign called Fight for Five which highlighted its five major issues:  

1. Pay and benefits

2. Lower class sizes

3. More counselors, nurses and special education support

4. More elementary student enrichment classes and the teacher preparation time that comes along with it

5. Protection of teachers’ planning time


Under the new contract, teachers receive:

  • 1 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2014
  • 4 percent salary increase effective July 1, 2015
  • A contract reopener on wages solely for the purpose of negotiating additional wage increases in the 2016-2017 school year

SDEA declared in its summary of the new agreement that the pay increases bring San Diego teachers up from the bottom to the median pay in San Diego County.


Teachers keep their fully-paid family health benefits for the duration of the contract. This was one of SDEA’s major priorities.

Class size

There are several noteworthy changes to class size in the latest contract:

  • Class size drops significantly in K-3, from a cap of 32 students in the first six months of school and 36 thereafter, to a class average of just 24 students.
  • About 54 high-needs schools will get one additional certificated staff position, to be assigned as the school Site-Governance Team sees fit. The additional staff member may be used to lower class size or to give students additional support, such as counseling, nursing or any other direct student service. 
  • The district is also allocating additional K-3 teachers to about 34 of these high-needs schools, which lowers the student teacher ratio from 24:1 to 22:1.

Counselors, nurses and special education support

This isn’t an area typically covered in Catching up on Contracts, but it’s included here since it was one of the union’s big five issues.  The district agreed to hire additional nurses and counselors and agreed that no nurse or counselor would be assigned to more than three sites. Resource specialist caseloads will be reduced from 28 to 24 and general education teachers who have a class with more than 20 percent of students with IEPs will have the right to develop a teacher support plan.

Elementary enrichment classes

The latest contract includes no mention of elementary student enrichment classes. It appears SDEA may have lost on this count.

Planning time

  • Under the latest contract, preparation time for teachers in grades 4-6 increases from 45 minutes a week to 55.
  • There is a greater incentive for teachers to give up prep time to cover another teacher’s class. Teachers now receive pay after one hour, down from three hours. Furthermore, teachers will now be paid if they volunteer to cover class for a colleague who is involved in professional development activities.

Apart from the SDEA’s Fight for Five campaign, the latest contract brings about other policy changes as well:

Substitute teachers

Like many districts around the country, San Diego is facing a shortage of substitute teachers. The latest contract raises the pay for subs and establishes a new visiting teacher classification. Regular daily substitutes, Level One Visiting Teachers, will receive $144.20/day for the first five days on an assignment, up from $137.33/day, after which substitutes are classified as long term and receive $161.15. The new classification is Level Two Visiting Teachers. These are substitutes who, in one year, work more than 50 percent of the instructional days. After the 50 percent, these substitutes will receive $152.67/day.


Previously in SDUSD, teachers who wished to transfer to a new assignment essentially bid on a posted position and Human Resources facilitated an interview between the teacher and the receiving school. The new contract includes a more streamlined transfer process. Instead of two “post and bid” periods in February and May, there is now only one in May.


Two new policies acknowledge the personal demands on a teacher:

  • Fathers, spouses and partners (formerly just fathers) can now use twice as much sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child (18 days instead of 9).
  • The contract allows teachers to now use 5 days (previously 3 days) of sick leave for personal or family responsibilities.


SDUSD and SDEA will research and make recommendations on a new evaluation model, which will not be tied to student test scores.