What LA teachers won with their strike — and why some parents aren’t thrilled
Thousands of Los Angeles teachers returned to classrooms Wednesday after their six-day strike reaped an array of wins.
But they didn’t get everything they wanted. And some parents are wishing for more.
Still, most of the 34,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union were satisfied with a deal struck between UTLA leaders and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“For years, our students were being starved of the resources they need,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “It’s a historic day.”
What did the teachers’ union get?
Smaller class sizes: This was a huge deal for teachers, who said there’s no way they can give enough individual attention when they have 45 to 50 students in a class.
With this new deal, class sizes in grades 4-12 will be reduced by 1 in the 2019-20 school year; 1 in the 2020-21 school year; and 2 in the 2021-22 school year. In addition, classes in grades 3 and lower will be capped at 24 to 27 students, UTLA said.
More nurses: LAUSD will add 300 school nurses over the next two years. These permanent hires mean every LAUSD school will finally have a nurse, Caputo-Pearl said.
More counselors: Over the next three years, LAUSD will add 77 new counselors — which will help reduce the student-to-counselor ratio to about 500:1.
More librarians: LAUSD said it will add 82 librarians to all secondary schools. That will allow all middle schools and high schools to have a teacher-librarian, Caputo-Pearl said.
Teacher raises: The school district agreed to a combined 6% raise for teachers — 3% retroactively for the 2017-18 school year, and 3% for the current school year.
The teachers’ union had asked for 6.5% raises, but had to settle for the 6% raises.
How much will all this cost?
LAUSD said the investment in nurses, librarians, counselors and class size reduction will cost $175 million over the next two school years, and $228 million in the 2021-22 school year.
That’s a total of $403 million over the next three school years.
But before and during the strike, LAUSD said it was already stretched to its financial limit. The school district said its $1.8 billion in reserves was already earmarked for future education spending, and projections showed the district was facing years of deficits.
The situation is so bad, the Los Angeles County Office of Education is intervening. The state-funded regulatory agency assigned fiscal experts to work with the school district to help “eliminate deficit spending and restore required financial reserve levels.”
So where will this $403 million come from?
“A portion of the $403 million will come from assigned reserves … and a portion will come from an anticipated increase in state revenue,” LAUSD spokeswoman Barbara Jones said.
“We also have commitments from the state and county, such as the $10 million approved by the (Los Angeles County) Board of Supervisors for mental health.”
The district could help fund the deal with:
— A state tax referendum on the 2020 ballot, which could generate $1.4 billion for Los Angeles-area schools
— A parcel tax at the county level, which would need approval from a majority of the district’s voters
— City money, since Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is open to redirecting some city funds toward school needs.
Why are some parents not thrilled?
While many parents celebrated news of the deal — and the end of the teachers’ strike — Andrew Krowne said he’s not satisfied with the agreement.
“I’m not impressed,” said Krowne, the father of four LAUSD students.
He said elementary school students won’t benefit as much as older students because the younger kids won’t get additional librarians or counselors.
“As a parent of a child who was bullied so badly she had to change schools, I’m not a supporter” of the contract, Krowne said. “There was a chance to save lives by providing services to the most vulnerable among us, to identify and address problems before they lead to tragedy.”
Evelyn Alemán said she’s glad the strike is over and appreciates the union, school district and mayor for helping bring a resolution.
But she wants parents like herself to have a greater voice in negotiations that directly impact their children.
“Parents cannot and should not be left as spectators on the sidelines while others make decisions about their children’s future and education,” said Alemán, the mother of a high school freshman.
And if the school district and union have another impasse like this one, she said parents should have a seat at the table.
“As partners in education, parents can offer unique perspectives and support, but they need transparency from all entities at the negotiating table,” Alemán said. “They need inclusion — and action.”