Last Friday’s last-ditch bargaining session between the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach didn’t see the two sides come to an agreement on compensation or the district’s proposal to add four pupil-free days to the school year.

That means that the city’s largest employer and its largest union are at a formal impasse and will proceed to state mediation, overseen by California’s Public Employee Relations Board.

A state mediator will work with both sides to try to bring them to an agreement, and if unsuccessful, the process will proceed to fact-finding, in which a PERB panel will hear presentations from both sides and make a recommendation for how to resolve the dispute.

“The District will file the appropriate documentation with PERB and looks forward to reaching a compromise with TALB,” LBUSD said in a bargaining update.

The dispute between the district and TALB has been over two sticking points: compensation and a proposed four pupil-free days the district wants to add to the calendar for teachers, to be used for professional development. The two sides didn’t move much from where they entered last Friday’s final bargaining session prior to the impasse: TALB wanted an 11% pay increase and to compromise on the professional development days, with two instead of four. The district increased its pay raise offer from 8% to 8.5%, but it did not change its position on adding four pupil-free days.

“The TALB team indicated they did not have authorization to go beyond their counter-offer today of two additional pupil-free days,” said the district update.

A TALB bargaining update to membership confirmed the two sides are at an impasse and entering state mediation, and the update urged members to prepare for a large rally at the next LBUSD Board of Education meeting, on April 17.

The LBUSD has generally enjoyed sunny relationships with its two largest employee unions, and this will be the first time the LBUSD and TALB enter state mediation since 2012, when a dispute over health care costs put them at an impasse. LBUSD’s teachers have never gone on strike against the district.

However, it’s the second time in two years the LBUSD will find itself in state mediation, as the district went through it last year with the Long Beach chapter of the California School Employees Association before finally reaching a deal after a year.

Impassioned teacher speeches during the public comment portion of recent board meetings have made it clear that the issue around professional development days has hit a deeper emotional vein with TALB’s membership, with teachers saying they don’t feel listened to or respected in the post-COVID world, and they don’t feel the district’s professional development has aligned with what they’re seeing in their classrooms.

LBUSD teachers rally at board meeting as contract negotiations drag on