LA Unified School District reaches compromise with teachers
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On January 14th, the 30,000 members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) went on strike for the first time in 30 years to protest for higher wages, better benefits, and more suitable working conditions. After six days of picketing through the recent downpour that struck the city, a deal was eventually made between the UTLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that ended the strike and put teachers back in their classrooms.
The dispute between the union and the district began in early 2017 when contracts were scheduled to be renewed (due to the prolonging of negotiations, members of the union were technically working without an updated contract until recently). Essentially, the UTLA was calling for a revisal of how the district was spending its funds. According to NPR News, the union, representing teachers as well as nurses and counselors employed by the district, demanded a 6.5 percent pay raise for teachers, full-time staffing of nurses and librarians for every middle school and high school, additional staffing of counselors, deans, and social workers, and a reduction of average class size. The district met these demands with heavy backlash, arguing that these expenses were simply not in the budget—even the nearly $2 million in reserve could not be negotiated in order to avoid insolvency. In light of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s amendment to the state budget to increase public education funding LAUSD then adjusted its offer: it advanced a 6 percent pay raise for teachers, and agreed to pay $130 million to reduce class size, an expense that would cover funding for added nurses and counselors, as well as guarantee library services at every middle school and an additional counselor at every high school. The county government reported it would be willing to provide $10 million of further mental health funding as well, but in spite of these offers the UTLA stood their ground, advocating for a true change in their working conditions. This led to an impasse that caused the UTLA to organize a strike, both sides still hoping to find a compromise—which they did, after 6 days and 21 hours of further negotiation according to Amsterdam News.
The compromise that was reached included a 6 percent teacher pay raise, a resolution to cap the number of charter schools statewide, and a commitment to decrease class sizes by 4 students over the next 3 years. The district also agreed to employ 150 nurses, 41 librarians, and 17 more counselors full-time, set hard caps on special education caseloads, and make better efforts to expand green space and support immigrant families.
The strike ultimately benefited the UTLA, but many parents were upset at the conditions the LAUSD public schools were left in as a result. Though the Los Angeles Police Department dispatched extra security to hundreds of elementary schools, and the district hired 400 substitute teachers and called 2,000 credentialed administrators into the abandoned classrooms, it also “loosed background requirements” for parent volunteers, an act that sparked immediate controversy, according to CBS Los Angeles. Of the roughly 600,000 students under the jurisdiction of LAUSD, a large quantity did not attend school during this time because of the desire of parents and students to support their teachers, but in many cases this meant that parents were forced to either miss work entirely or take their children with them if childcare was unavailable. With the conclusion of negotiations, teachers have returned to their classrooms having won a significant victory for their students, a victory that will no doubt lead to more down the road.