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UTLA Strike Ends: Did teachers get what they want?

Marissa Chavez, Digital Editor

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Yet again, tens of thousands of teachers and their supporters filled the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, this time in celebration.

United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District came to an agreement Tuesday morning after 21 months of negotiations.

The union was fighting for a 6.5% pay increase, smaller classroom sizes, more nurses on every campus, as well as counselors and librarians. In addition, the union wanted to address the charter school caps in California, but that issue was out of the district’s jurisdiction and is expected to move onto state level.

Twenty-two-year Kindergarten teacher Maria Bonilla said the strike exceeded her expectations.

 

“I can’t express in words how I feel,” Bonilla said. “I am proud of our teachers, our community, and our city. We stuck together and I feel like today, we began the movement to save public education.”

Last Monday January 14, over 30,000 teachers went on strike for the first time in 30 years. A mass of parents and students supported the strike while barring the rainstorm. Strikers fought for the district to meet each of the demands with the $1.8 billion currently in reserves.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner explained the district is in a spending deficit and meeting the demands from teachers would drive them to bankruptcy.

 

The basics of the agreement:

 

  • The removal of section 1.5 which would have allowed the district to add students without a limit in a previous version of LAUSD offer. Eliminating this section creates a hard cap size on students in grades TK-12.
  • The national average for middle school and high school class room sizes is 27 students according to the National Center for Education Statistics; the LA average classroom size is 42 students.
  • UTLA will receive a 6 percent pay increase—they asked for 6.5 percent—However, teachers will receive only 3 percent retro pay and 3 percent for this year.
  • Another motive for the strike was the lack of staff members at each school, most schools only have a nurse come in one day a week. Three hundred nursing staff will be added with this new agreement, meaning each school in the district will have a nurse every day, as well as 80 new teacher librarians and a 500:1 counselor to student ratio.

 

President Caputo and superintendent Beutner stated in a press conference that these changes will be underway for the next three to four years.

“It was really important for all of us to stand up to help save public school,” Curtiss Middle School teacher Victoria Gortez said. “But the fight isn’t over, it’s just starting.”

Tuesday’s votes showed that the “vast supermajority” of UTLA members were in favor of the agreement, which was all that was needed for teachers and students to return to school on Wednesday.

However, UTLA members are now questioning the intent of this deal. Many teachers say they were forced to make a decision within a few hours which was “not enough time for such a major decision” according to fifth grade teacher Matthew Castillo.

“There was nowhere near enough time to review the contract in full,” Castillo said. “This deal is not what we want, it was not for our benefit…it was for money.”

A source from El Sereno Middle School told the UT that the vote from their school was not unanimous. 16 teachers voted ‘YES’ while 43 voted ‘NO.’

At least a dozen other schools had similar results according to the source at ESMS which could eventually lead to another strike.

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