Bargaining teams for the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach will meet again next week for a Hail Mary negotiating session to try and avoid an impasse. The two sides have been stuck for weeks in negotiations over pay increases and a proposal to add four student-free days to the school calendar, with TALB’s executive board voting to reject the district’s final offer earlier this week.

Since that vote, another negotiation has been scheduled for Friday, March 24, where the two sides will try to find common ground to avoid their first formal impasse and state mediation since 2012, when talks broke down over health care costs. The LBUSD is the city’s longtime largest employer, and TALB is its largest union.

According to a bargaining update from TALB, there has been little movement.

“Since February 24, the District has offered the same deal just repackaged,” according to the update. At issue is the size of raise the teachers will get (the district has offered 8% on schedule and 3% off schedule while TALB has asked for 10% on and 3% off) as well as additional days of professional development. The district has asked for four additional student-free days for professional development, saying that it’s a necessary part of changing district strategy.

“The District has proposed adding four paid pupil-free days as a necessary change to the system to provide staff the opportunity for collaboration, review of student data and/or site-based training,” reads the most recent LBUSD bargaining update.

Those extra days have been a big sticking point. Teachers once again rallied at the most recent LBUSD board meeting on Wednesday night, with several signing up to speak during public comment. Their refrain remained the same: They see the district as out of touch with their needs and the changing landscape of the classroom environment post-COVID-19. While labor disputes often center around pay, there’s clearly a strong emotional vein running through these current negotiations about whether teachers feel that the district trainings are useful.

Currently, the LBUSD work year for teachers is 182 days, according to the district, and the state average is 185. The district says under their current offer, the four additional days for LBUSD teachers would begin in 2024-25.

TALB says it has counter-offered the district’s proposal of the 8% and 3% raise with four additional days with a proposal of a 10% and 3% raise with two additional days of professional development. The two sides’ negotiating teams will try to bridge that gap next Friday.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this is not just a perfunctory meeting to declare impasse,” said the TALB update. “We want a deal that is fair and equitable for our members. However, the Association feels we have moved far more than the district. … We hope that coming to the table and meeting the district in the ‘middle’ will be enough.”

LBUSD’s most recent bargaining update points out that the district has increased its salary offer from an 8% and 2% raise to an 8% and 3% raise, and similarly expressed optimism about next week’s session.

“The negotiation team for LBUSD looks forward to working with TALB’s bargaining team to reach an agreement, and the District will continue to provide updates,” reads the update.

While protracted negotiations aren’t uncommon, the relationship between the LBUSD and TALB has generally been strong. The two sides haven’t been at a formal impasse since 2012, and LBUSD’s teachers have never gone on strike.

Parents, staff push back against LBUSD plan that would leave some schools without librarians