Mikhail Zinshteyn/EdSource
Striking teachers and other workers hold up signs in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.
This story was updated Jan. 22, 2019 to include details of the contract agreement.

Tens of thousands of teachers in Los Angeles returned to classes on Wednesday morning, after a six school day strike yielded a collective bargaining agreement that had eluded their union representatives for nearly two years.

The settlement in California’s largest school district could serve as a model for brewing teacher disputes in other districts around the state, such as Oakland, and beyond California’s borders.

What was notable about the issues agreed to was that most did not have to do with salaries and benefits for the teachers themselves.  In fact, the salary increase — a 6 percent retroactive increase spread over two years — was essentially the same as the one offered by the district before the strike.

Rather, many of the gains at the bargaining table had to do with improving  the classroom environment for teachers, such as smaller class sizes, as well as expanding support services for students, such as hiring more counselors, nurses and librarians. This represented a recognition that student success depends on much more than what teachers do in the classroom.

The agreement, hammered out by the competing sides who met over the long weekend in City Hall, with Mayor Eric Garcetti shuttling between them.  Later in the day the agreement was approved in an electronic vote by what the United Teachers of Los Angeles described as a “supermajority” of  teachers.  on the sixth day of the strike.  The union did not release an exact tally of the vote. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti describes details of the agreement to end the city’s teachers strike. School  Superintendent Austin Beutner is on the right, United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl left.

Garcetti described what he called a “new culture of collaboration” in the district and said he was committed to making sure that continues after the agreement is signed.

For a summary of the agreement, go here and for the full agreement go here

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the strike and its outcome represented an affirmation of a belief in public schools

“One of the things that happened over the last couple of weeks was a groundswell of support of parents, communities, and students for their schools,” he said. “A lot of it was about supporting teachers, but a lot of it was about supporting their schools that they love, public neighborhood schools.”

Asked whether he could trust Austin Beutner, the district’s superintendent, reviled by the union and disparagingly labelled as a non-educator and investment banker dedicated to “privatizing” public schools, Caputo-Pearl said “we are building that trust.”

Left unclear is precisely how the dozens of provisions agreed to would be paid for. The agreement explicitly states that the district, the union and the mayor will advocate for increased county and state funding. Garcetti pledged to work with both the district and UTLA to back the “Schools and Communities First” initiative planned for the 2020 ballot to reform Proposition 13, the tax-cutting initiative approved by voters in 1978.

Beutner said he still had “tremendous concerns about insolvency,” but those had to be “balanced with meeting the needs of our educators and our students. We are spending every nickel we have,” he said.

Among the dozens of provisions agreed to in the 40-page contract:

  • Teachers will get a retroactive 6 percent pay raise, not the 6.5 percent the union had requested. Three percent is retroactive to the 2017-18 school year and an additional 3 percent would kick in for the beginning of the current school year. The union had been seeking a retroactive increase to the 2016-17 school year.
  • Addressing the contentious issue of large class sizes, enrollments in high school math and science classes will be reduced by seven students beginning next year. In what the union regards as a major victory, the district gave up the right to override class size averages and caps agreed to earlier.
  • The district committed to hiring an additional 150 nurses by the 2020-21 school year, which would result in a nurse in every school. It will also hire 41 more “teacher librarians,” which would translate into a librarian in every high school. To maintain a ratio of 500 students to every counselor, the district will hire a minimum of 17 new counselors.
  • The district has agreed to convert 30 schools into “community schools” over the next two years, which provide a range of health and other services for students and their families. These schools will have additional funds and several new staff who will be UTLA members.
  • Special education teachers would get two “release days” to conduct testing and other provisions to ease the demands on special ed teachers.
  • The district has pledged to provide a dedicated hotline and attorney for immigrant families.

The impact of charter schools was a major issue in the strike, but individual school districts have little power to limit charter school growth. However, the elected board of education has agreed to vote on a resolution calling on the state to place a cap on charter schools in the district — although there were no assurances that the board would approve such a resolution.

Most significantly, the agreement addressed the contentious issue of charter schools being “co-located” on the same campus as district schools. Going forward, a UTLA “co-location representative” will be elected on campuses having to share space with a charter school and would help develop a shared-use agreement for the site. This would be the first time teachers and the union would have a direct say in the operation of charter schools in the district.

A great deal of attention, both positive and negative, has been directed to standardized tests aligned with the Common Core that students are required by state and federal law to take each spring. Much less attention has been focused on the ongoing tests and assessments students have to take multiple times during the year. In the future, a joint union-district committee will review all district assessments and develop a plan to reduce the amount of assessments by half.

Lamenting what he called “40 years of underinvestment in our schools,” Beutner, who has been on the job for less than a year, said, “This is a truly historic agreement, and we look forward to tomorrow, and a new day for our schools.”

Mikhail  Zinshteyn also contributed to this report.

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  1. Anne 5 months ago5 months ago

    Please Please Please correct the math…Teachers lost 7 days of wages for 7 strike days!

  2. SD Parent 6 months ago6 months ago

    I have sympathy for teachers and students in overcrowded classrooms with minimal student supports. But let's not forget how we got here. As the state began to recover from the recession and funding for education increased, school district employees – led by teachers' unions – pushed for increased pay at the same time that the state Legislature burdened school districts with the unfunded pension liability in CalSTRS, a retirement benefit for teachers. … Read More

    I have sympathy for teachers and students in overcrowded classrooms with minimal student supports.
    But let’s not forget how we got here. As the state began to recover from the recession and funding for education increased, school district employees – led by teachers’ unions – pushed for increased pay at the same time that the state Legislature burdened school districts with the unfunded pension liability in CalSTRS, a retirement benefit for teachers. According to Ed-Data, in the four years between 2012-13 and 2016-17, average teacher pay statewide rose 14%. With LAUSD, there is also evidence of excessive administrative costs.

    Statistics that aren’t published in the articles about striking teachers also include the actual pay of the striking employees. For example, according to the CDE, the average teacher pay in LAUSD before the strike was $74,789 (for 182 days of service). Compare that to a median family income in LA County of $69,300, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    If statistics like these were made public, teachers might find that support for increased pay would take a back seat to improved conditions for the students. Claims that smaller class sizes and increased counselors were the priorities for UTLA are subject to interpretation. To me the best indicator for the greatest priorities in concessions is to know how much each will actually cost the district.

    My greatest concern is that UTLA’s strike emboldens other districts across the state to follow suit. The biggest losers in these strikes are the students, who lose instructional days (and the free meals they would have at schools), and their parents, who have to miss work and/or find other ways to care for their children while they are out of school.

  3. Metty 6 months ago6 months ago

    I don’t exactly understand this strike but it was for the best to defend their schools.They want children to learn and have a better future now and then, even if they didn’t exist, we’d still have more issues. And yes, I am a student saying all this, I’mjust getting worried….

  4. Tom 6 months ago6 months ago

    Am happy for the kids and the parents that this strike is now over, but huge questions remain unresolved. In following this issue from a variety of journalistic sources, it seems that LAUSD has been spending more than they have allocated by the state ($26b vs. $24b, WSJ) but their reserves are getting very low and that would trigger a takeover. So with the promises of smaller class sizes (more teachers), more nurses … Read More

    Am happy for the kids and the parents that this strike is now over, but huge questions remain unresolved. In following this issue from a variety of journalistic sources, it seems that LAUSD has been spending more than they have allocated by the state ($26b vs. $24b, WSJ) but their reserves are getting very low and that would trigger a takeover. So with the promises of smaller class sizes (more teachers), more nurses and librarians, where is the money to pay for these going to come from? t

    It puts pressure on Newsom and the rest of the State government to either provide more money to K-12’s or to cut the costs of running traditional public schools. The later is not politically palatable, and with Newsom’s other spending promises (pre-K, full day K, universal health care) and the looming underfunded pension costs, how the heck is that all possible? I don’t get it. Can anyone shed some light on this?

  5. Orion 6 months ago6 months ago

    I think that this is great that they went on strike because, the District is being a big wuss. How? They don’t want to use up their $2 billion that they so graciously save up for absolutely nothing.

  6. Christian 6 months ago6 months ago

    Funding? Holy cow! Enough of this rhetoric. The County of Los Angeles is absolutely abundant in money. Just because the county budgets as much, if not more than the revenues it takes in does not make the county without funds. Deficit is the difference between budget and revenues. The LA County budget has more than doubled in the last 16 years because revenues have increased so much.. The Board of Supervisors promote and promote they … Read More

    Funding? Holy cow! Enough of this rhetoric. The County of Los Angeles is absolutely abundant in money. Just because the county budgets as much, if not more than the revenues it takes in does not make the county without funds. Deficit is the difference between budget and revenues. The LA County budget has more than doubled in the last 16 years because revenues have increased so much.. The Board of Supervisors promote and promote they don’t have money. Go look for yourself. This is a flat out lie and the LA County Treasurer’s financial information is there for all to see.

    Replies

    • el 6 months ago6 months ago

      The state of the budget for Los Angeles County, whatever it might be, is irrelevant to the financial situation of LAUSD; they are wholly separate entities. The County government does not fund schools. LAUSD, like most school districts, gets the bulk of its funding set by the state funding formula.

    • Educator 6 months ago6 months ago

      The schools are funded by Los Angeles Unified School District not LA County.

  7. jb nudell 6 months ago6 months ago

    As of noon (pst), the tentative agrrement that was reached has yet to be ratified. That happens later this afternoon (after the rank and file have had a chance to read and understand). This is what democracy looks like.