By EMILY WALOS
For many students, whenever they see a substitute in a class they automatically get excited because a door of opportunity opens for the day, whether it is to switch names or seats with friends. However, for students in the Los Angeles Unified School district, walking into school on Jan. 14 and seeing a substitute meant that their teacher was one of around 30,000 that walked off the job in the Los Angeles teachers strike.
As the 2018-2019 school year began, teachers of the LAUSD voted to give their union board members the authority to approve a teacher strike for its members while negotiating a new contract towards the end of December; however, it started to become evident that negotiations had started to break down.
According to Valerie Strauss’s Jan. 14 Washington Post editorial, “The Los Angeles teachers strike, as told in a dozen tweets,” around 30,000 teachers walked off the job, leaving the district scrambling to hire substitutes and provide a safe learning environment for 640,000 students while teachers picketed. Teachers were demanding a 6.5% increase in pay, class size reduction and an increase in hiring support, such as school nurses, counselors, and libraries.
“Only about a third of Los Angeles Unified students showed up to school Monday, the first day of a teachers’ strike,” was stated in Howard Blume’s article, “Only about a third of LAUSD students attended school on the first day of teachers’ strike”. Parents had many reasons to not send their child to schools, such as having refused to have their children cross the picket line in support of teachers, or the fact they do not feel their child will be safe under the limited supervision provided by the district.
Chris Woodyard, journalist for USA Today, wrote, “For the week, the district lost $125 million in state funding based on low attendance, though it would recoup about $50 million of it by not having to pay salaries to the teachers and other UTLA members.” Students who had returned to school were being taught by the reassigned 2,000 administrators and about 14,000 substitutes.
The teachers union felt the district should tap into the 1.8 billion dollar reserves to fund staff members and increase pay; however, the superintendent stated the 1.8 billion dollars is already budgeted for other needs.
It seemed there would be a continued strike as the conditions the teachers were asking for had little to no chance of being passed; however, both parties had come to an agreement. Los Angeles city mayor Eric Garcetti stated, “This is a historic agreement, it’s time for a new day in public education in Los Angeles.”
The agreement included that the district would reduce the number of students in every class of every grade of every school, and this would be done by hiring more teachers. By 2022, average class sizes will be reduced by four students from their already larger class averages of around 40 students. As for the issue of hiring more nurses, librarians, and counselors, the district has agreed to employ 300 nurses, a full-time librarian for every high school and an additional 17 counselors. In addition, teachers received a 6% increase in pay. This was all stated in a summary of the pact given by the union.
“This seems like a decent compromise UTLA fought not just for themselves but for the state and think they did in terms of the nurses and the classroom aids and so forth was very very important and the salary as well, they have worked hard, teachers deserve to make money too…” stated Shannon Rooney, Biology and AP Biology teacher at Citrus Valley High School.
“I think the strike was unfortunate but a necessary statement to let the public understand there was not enough money to meet the demands of the teachers that are legitimate concerns…also the fact that the students have an unsafe learning environment since there isn’t enough that don’t have enough medical staff to safely care for the children if your splitting nurses by that many schools…,” stated Allen Thoe, a Computer Science and Integrated Math teacher at Citrus Valley High School.