L.A. Teachers, District Agree to Deal 01/23 06:19
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers planned to
return to work Wednesday after voting to ratify a deal between their union and
school officials, ending a six-day strike in the nation's second-largest
"I voted 'yes,' to approve," said second-grade teacher Wendy Perez. "I think
the union negotiated in good faith, and I'd like to believe the district did
A crowd of teachers roared its approval after the tentative deal was
announced at City Hall following a 21-hour bargaining session.
While all votes hadn't been counted by Tuesday night, union President Alex
Caputo-Pearl said preliminary balloting showed educators overwhelmingly
approving the proposal.
"A vast supermajority are voting 'yes'...therefore, ending the strike and
heading back to schools tomorrow," he said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, accompanied by leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles
and the LA Unified School District, called it an "historic agreement" that will
usher in a "new day" for public education in the city.
The deal came as teachers in Denver voted to go on strike as soon as next
Monday. More than 5,000 educators would be affected. The main sticking point is
increasing base pay and lessening teachers' reliance on one-time bonuses for
having students with high test scores or working in a high-poverty school.
In Oakland, California, some teachers called in sick last week as part of an
unofficial rally over their contract negotiations, which also hinge partly on a
demand for smaller class sizes.
Teachers hoped to build on the "Red4Ed" movement that began last year in
West Virginia and moved to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado and Washington
state. It spread from conservative states with "right to work" laws that limit
the ability to strike to the more liberal West Coast with strong unions.
In Los Angeles, thousands of boisterous educators and their supporters
cheered as the tentative contract agreement was announced earlier in the day.
The deal includes a 6 percent pay hike and a commitment to reduce class
sizes over four years, according to statements from the district and the union.
It will also add more than 600 nursing positions over the next three school
years, which pleased Perez. Teachers had complained that some schools only had
a nurse on campus one day a week, she said.
"It was a matter of time before a student got very sick, with no nurse
around," said Perez. "We've got kids with peanut allergies, asthma, diabetes.
We need nurses."
Additional counselors and librarians are also part of the planned increase
in support staff.
The new contract also eliminates a longstanding clause that gave the
district authority over class sizes, officials said. Many schools will see a
class size reduction of about four students in three years --- though 90
high-needs campuses will see six fewer students per class during that time.
Those reductions were the main reason teacher Charles Pak voted to ratify
--- but he said he was happy with the deal as a whole.
"We got almost everything we asked for, just about," said Pak, who teaches
8th grade English. "So I think the strike was positive overall."
District Superintendent Austin Beutner said he was delighted the deal was
reached. But he hinted that financial challenges remained.
"The issue has always been how do we pay for it?" Beutner said. "That issue
does not go away now that we have a contract. We can't solve 40 years of
underinvestment in public education in just one week or just one contract."
Under the agreement, the district, the union and the mayor's office will
work jointly to "advocate for increased county and state funding" for Los
Angeles schools, according to the UTLA summary.
The district maintained that the union's demands could bankrupt the school
system, which is projecting a half-billion-dollar deficit this budget year and
has billions obligated for pension payments and health coverage for retired
The Board of Education was expected to move quickly to ratify the deal,
which would expire at the end of June 2022.
Kelly Maloney said students at the downtown Los Angeles high school where he
teaches English told him they're ready to return to normal after spending a
week in large groups supervised by small numbers of substitute teachers.
"They're bored," he said of his 12th grade pupils. "Going back is going to
be a big transition for everyone--- students, administrators, teachers."