After a Weeklong Strike, Los Angeles Teachers May Have a Deal

Teachers demonstrate in Los Angeles on Friday, January 18, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The United Teachers of Los Angeles have reached a tentative deal with the Los Angeles United School District that would end a weeklong strike, representatives announced at a Tuesday press conference. Rank-and-file members of UTLA will likely take the rest of the day to read through and then vote to accept or reject the contract, the Los Angeles Times reported. If teachers approve the proposal, they’ll be back in classrooms on Wednesday.

According to the Times, the tentative deal includes a 6 percent pay raise and eliminates Section 1.5 in the union’s current contract, which allowed the school district to bypass class-size caps for economic reasons. The New York Times also reports that the district has committed to hiring more school nurses and psychologists.

According to a copy of the proposed agreement, the district has pledged to transform 30 public schools into community schools, which wrap health and social services for parents and community members into traditional school offerings. The district has committed $150,000 per school for to transition them into the community school model. The proposed contract also creates a broader oversight role for UTLA chapter chairs in schools that share facilities with charter schools, and agrees to “create and publicize” a hotline that connects students and families “facing immigration-related concerns” to support services. The district has also agreed to create a Green Space Task Force to create new, green spaces in schools that currently lack them.

Available details point to a near-total victory for the union, which had framed its demands as an example of bargaining for the common good. The school district and the union were never that far apart on salary demands. Low pay contributed to the strike, but the union’s primary demands had more to do with class sizes and a lack of support staff for students. Teachers reported class sizes of 45 students or higher. Battle lines formed, then, over the district’s priorities. From the union’s perspective, the school board —dominated by officials and a superintendent with links to the charter-school movement — had favored the proliferation of charters over the needs of its traditional public schools. Section 1.5 in particular became a real sticking point in negotiations between the union and the district, which had complained that it did not have the funds to hire the staff necessary to reduce class sizes across the district. The union, meanwhile, pointed to the district’s nearly $2 billion in cash reserves as evidence that school board officials could fund the desired reforms if they chose.

On Tuesday afternoon, it wasn’t clear how the district had decided to fund the union’s demands. But Eric Garcetti, the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, thanked the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, for making education “a priority” in his budget, which could foreshadow increased funding for the state’s public schools. If that’s the case, Los Angeles teachers will have secured a better deal for the state, not just for their own students.

This post has been updated with details from the proposed agreement.

After Weeklong Strike, Los Angeles Teachers May Have a Deal