Los Angeles Teachers’ Union Postpones Strike Over Legal Questions

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles teachers’ union on Wednesday postponed a districtwide strike until Monday, after questions about whether a court could delay the strike arose on the day before some 30,000 teachers were expected to walk off the job.

While the postponement could reopen negotiations, the union also suggested that it and the Los Angeles Unified School District are far from an agreement and that a strike in the nation’s second largest school system remains all but inevitable.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge was expected to rule Wednesday on whether the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, had given the school district the proper legal notice that its members would no longer work under the terms of its most recent contract, which expired more than a year ago.

Teachers say they can no longer work in what they call untenable conditions. They are demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes and more support staff like counselors and librarians. But district officials say that meeting those demands would bankrupt the school system, which is already paying for rising pension and health care costs, and that the strike will hurt the most vulnerable schools and students.

The union announced on Dec. 19 that it would go on strike on Jan. 10, and union leaders believed they had given ample notice. But district officials said that they had not received a formal notice in time.

A strike would affect 900 schools serving more than 500,000 students, many of whom were expecting to stay home or have limited instruction on Thursday.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, criticized the schools superintendent, Austin Beutner, in announcing the postponement.

“Unlike Beutner and his administration, we do not want to bring confusion and chaos into an already fluid situation,” Mr. Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “Although we believe we would ultimately prevail in court, for our members, our students, parents, and the community, absent an agreement we will plan to strike on Monday.”

While district and union officials have been at a stalemate for months, negotiations resumed this week and continued Wednesday in a final attempt to avert a strike.

Mr. Beutner and Mónica García, the president of the Los Angeles school board, traveled to Sacramento to lobby for more money for the district. Many education experts have urged the state to spend more money on public schools.

“We are working hard to avert a strike,” Mr. Beutner said in a statement. “We are building support at the state level to find more resources to help our students and better support all who work in our schools.”

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