UTLA-LAUSD Agreement: What Do Our Teachers Think?

Did UTLA make the right call?



IN ACTION : Mr. Shano and close friend Mr. Kenneth Osorio pose while advocating for UTLA demands on March 8, 2019.

By Lucas Shim

Six days.

It took six days of missing school and roaming the slippery L.A. streets for students and teachers to head back to the classroom.

After several months of negotiating over class sizes, additional staff and funding, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Board of Directors and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) established an official agreement on Jan. 22, bringing the union strike to an end.

But what are the contents of the agreement? Are the teachers of Van Nuys satisfied with the deal?

One of UTLA’s primary demands was the reduction of class sizes.

LAUSD will establish an immediate reduction of seven students in secondary Math and English classes in the 2019-2020 school year.

Classes will also be reduced by one student in the next two school years. The 2021-2022 school year will face a reduction of two students.

The deal also eliminates Section 1.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which ignored class size averages and caps.

“Well, the main thing that I wanted–what I am most happy about–is reducing the class size,” Magnet Teacher Ms. Wanda Moore said. “Years past, the negotiations were that we can limit the class size, but if the district wanted to implement some kind of financial insolvency kind of clause, they just disregard whatever the class size promises were. I was particularly pleased that that section was eliminated.”

Teachers also demanded additional staff members, including nurses and librarians.

LAUSD has offered to hire 150 full-time nurse positions for the 2019-2020 school year and the following year. Every school will have a nurse on the premises five days a week.

“It’s better for a school to have a full-time nurse in order for them to be familiar with what’s going on in school and the kids in needs,” Nurse Heghine Avetisyan said. “Healthy kids need a good education.”

LAUSD will also hire 41 full-time teacher librarian positions for the next two school years. Every secondary school campus will consist of a librarian by the 2020-2021 school year.

“I think that having a librarian on every campus sets the tone that reading is important,” Ms. Suzanne Osman said. “It’s a research specialist on campus that helps teachers and students navigate the internet and do appropriate research. It helps kids find books, it encourages reading, it’s a literary specialist on campus.”

The district also promised to hire more full-time counselors by Oct. 1, 2019. The number of people hired will be based on a 500:1 ratio of students to counselors.

“Our school actually exceeds it because Ms. Gardea makes sure that we don’t give each counselor more students,” Ms. Fanny Araña said.

Another controversial issue surrounding the strike was the overfunding of L.A. charter schools.

“Charter schools are the ones seeping the money from public schools,” Math Teacher Mr. Anthony Catalan said.

Though charter schools are not under LAUSD, they are still funded by the state. As a result, public schools are given less money.

To alleviate the issue, UTLA, LAUSD and the mayor’s office will advocate for more funding towards public schools.

The deal also prompts district to evaluate district assessments and halve how many are given.

Random searches will also be limited under this new deal, as a program exempting schools from conducting them is to be extended to 28 more schools.

More “green space” areas will be established with the removal of bungalows and asphalt.

The district will provide immigrant families with many services, including more hotlines and attorneys.

Additional resolutions include early education workdays, local school leadership councils, substitute educators, adult education, workspace for itinerant employees, transfers/magnet conversion and healthcare.

LAUSD will pay a three percent retro salary increase for the 2018-2019 school year. However, a misconception surrounding the teachers’ primary demands was increased payments.

“The people who were dissatisfied that we didn’t get enough of a raise–because people were complaining about that–that to me is ridiculous because that’s not what this was about,” Ms. Araña said.

LAUSD is giving teachers more say in UTLA issues by expanding rights for substitutes and itinerants to participate in district meetings.  

Although going on strike contributed to the deal, teachers wonder if it was the best course of action.

“We don’t really like strikes,” Mr. Catalan said. “We don’t agree with it but it’s the last resort to make changes in public schools.”

Though the agreement was inadequate for some teachers, it’s considered by many as a reasonable solution for both UTLA and LAUSD.

“I think it was the best that we can hope for. The thing that people forget is that both sides need to win. It’s not just what we want,” Ms. Osman said. “Obviously, I would have wanted the world, but that wasn’t realistic and wouldn’t have been fair. They must coexist.”