LA teacher strike over, students back to school
UPDATE: Jan. 23, 2019: United Teachers of Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 teachers, has given preliminary approval to the tentative agreement reached with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Tuesday. The vote in favor of the agreement was more than 80% as of last night, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said during a Tuesday night press conference. Students and teachers returned to school today in the nation's second-largest district.
Major highlights of the agreement include:
- Elimination of a provision that allowed the district to unilaterally ignore all class size averages and caps.
- Reduction in class sizes over four years by a total of four students.
- A 6% retroactive salary increase.
- At least 300 new full-time nurses over the next two school years to provide a full-time nurse at every school five days a week.
- At least 82 new full-time teacher librarian positions over the next two years so there is a librarian at every secondary school five days a week.
- At least 17 new full-time counselors by Oct. 1, 2019, allowing the district to maintain a counseling ratio of 500-to-1 per secondary school.
In addition, the district agreed to designate 30 community schools during the next two years.
The LAUSD school board still has to ratify the agreement, which also includes a resolution to be voted on at a future meeting that would call on the state to set a cap on the growth of charter schools.
- The Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles have reached a tentative contract agreement after a six-day strike that drew national attention, saw massive crowds filling up city streets and attracted support from members of Congress, celebrities and other labor unions.
- The terms, which would cover the next three and a half years, include class size reductions and eliminate a provision that would allow the district to exceed class size limits if they considered it necessary. The contract agreement also includes nurses in every school, full-time teacher librarians in every secondary school, and a partnership with the city to replace unused portable classrooms with more green spaces.
- Also included are plans to expand community schools and limit random drug or weapon searches that Caputo-Pearl said were making students of color feel targeted. “This is much more than just a narrow labor agreement. It is a very broad compact around things that get at social justice, educational justice and racial justice,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a news conference Tuesday where he was joined with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who helped to mediate the two sides.
With one major strike apparently coming to an end, other districts are still facing the possibility that their teachers will walk out. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which turned down the Denver Public Schools' latest contract offer on Friday, voted in favor of a strike. Some teachers in Oakland, California, where negotiations have now entered a fact-finding stage, were planning a second walkout today during a Oakland Unified School District Board meeting.
The teachers union in Chicago is also threatening to strike — all of which could indicate that last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling against agency fees from non-members has done little to weaken public employee unions at this point. Protests, however, also continue to be directed to state lawmakers, who control school funding formulas, which also shows that not all funding issues can be solved in a labor-management contract.
In Los Angeles and in the walkouts last year, the issues causing teacher protests are extending beyond issues related to salaries, benefits and working conditions, showing that the needs of students are also figuring into the conversation. Following the Janus decision, Paul Reville, the director of the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard University and a former Massachusetts secretary of education, urged unions to take a new approach to bargaining.
"What if unions mounted a 'children’s campaign' aimed at ensuring all young people have access to health, mental health, and dental care, stable housing, safe neighborhoods and various other essentials for well-being?" he wrote in a commentary. "Presenting a solution-oriented, constructive vision for education would be far better for teachers than mounting a negative, reactionary campaign."
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