Union leaders and administrators with the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a tentative deal Tuesday that could send teachers back to the classroom Wednesday, ending the first Los Angeles teachers strike in 30 years.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl joined Mayor Eric Garcetti at a morning news conference at City Hall to announce the breakthrough, which Garcetti said came after “a 21-hour marathon session that wrapped up just before sunrise this morning.”
UTLA teachers went on strike Jan. 14, calling for smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians, and a pay raise. Beutner has said the union’s demands would cost billions of dollars and bankrupt a district already teetering on insolvency.
The new proposal will be voted on by all UTLA members on Tuesday.
Voting on a tentative agreement will “happen in a streamlined voting process at school sites and within a span of a few hours, but it must take place before UTLA members will go back to work,” a union statement said.
“During that time, we will also be communicating with parents and community members about the TA (tentative agreement). We have no official agreement in place until our members vote on the TA.”
“The strike nobody wanted is now behind us,” Beutner said Tuesday.
But he also cautioned that “We can’t solve 40 years of underinvestment in public education in just one week or just one contract.”
“…Now that all students and our educators are heading back to the classroom, we have to keep pour focus and pay attention to the long-term solutions. … The importance of this moment is public education is now the topic in every household in our community. Let’s capitalize on this. Let’s fix it.”
Caputo Pearl said Tuesday’s tentative agreement addressed the union’s core issues, though details of the proposed new contract were still forthcoming.
“We have seen over the last week something pretty amazing happen,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We went on strike in one of the largest strikes the United States has seen in decades. And the creativity and innovation and passion and love and emotion of our members was out on the street, in the communities, in the parks for everyone to see.”
The union chief said the agreement addressed class size and support staff, and also more regulation on charter schools — another sticking point in negotiations.
Garcetti’s office took an active role in negotiations. The two sides met Monday at City Hall for the fifth straight day.
“We have seen over the last few weeks the way that the city has rallied around public education, and quite frankly it’s been breathtaking; it’s been inspiring to see,” Garcetti said.
The district earlier this month presented the union with an offer that included the hiring of 1,200 teachers, capping middle and high school English/math classes at 39 students, capping grades four through six at 35 students, maintaining all other existing class sizes, adding a full-time nurse at every elementary school and adding another academic counselor at high schools.
UTLA officials rejected the proposal, saying it did not go far enough to bolster school staffing, reduce class sizes and prevent them from increasing in the future. The union also blasted the district’s staff-increase proposal for being only a one-year offer, and contended the district’s salary increase proposal is contingent on benefit cuts to future union members.
The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6 percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract while UTLA wants a 6.5 percent raise that would take effect all at once and a year sooner.
The union disputed the district’s claim it cannot afford more extensive investment in school staffing, pointing to what it calls an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund and insisting the district has not faced a financial deficit in five years. The district contends that reserve fund is already being spent, in part on the salary increase for teachers.
The second-largest school district in the nation, the LAUSD covers 710 square miles and serves more than 694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter schools, most of which were being staffed with non-union teachers unaffected by the strike. The district says about 500,000 students have been affected by the walkout.