By Nathan Solis
LOS ANGELES – After the large rallies and marches in the rain over the last week, Los Angeles educators returned to their classrooms Wednesday – putting an end to a six-day teachers’ strike where more than 30,000 union members seized on a groundswell of support for public education at the second-largest school district.
Teachers, librarians, counselors and other staff walked out of classrooms Jan. 14, seeking more nurses, librarians, counselors, better pay, reductions in class size and more oversight over charter schools within the district. They received some of those in the final contract which was voted on by union members on Tuesday.
“A vast supermajority are voting yes for the agreement we made with LAUSD therefore ending the strike and heading back to school tomorrow,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl.
Rallies across Los Angeles garnered national attention and a group of teachers dancing on the picket lines received a boost on social media from freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“These LA teachers striking against privatization + demanding smaller classrooms/more support for their students is a whole 2019 mood,” Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, said.
On Tuesday, teachers in Denver approved a strike vote over stalled contract negotiations over pay. The walkout would be the first strike in 25 years for the Denver public school district, affecting 70,000 students and 5,300 teachers.
Back in California, Oakland teachers staged an unauthorized walkout and will vote next week on whether to strike over class size reductions and teacher turnover. The Oakland teachers’ union also seeks a 12 percent pay increase over the next three years.
But in Los Angeles, union leaders said their strike was not based solely on pay raises for educators, who received a 6 percent increase. The new contract also guarantees reductions in class size and the hiring of 300 nurses over the next three years.
Still, some parents felt that the school district ignored special education, which received small concessions like two days a year for special education staff to review compliance reports and caseload reductions.
Tiffany Gardner, a mother of two LAUSD students, said special education families were ignored. Gardner’s 10-year-old son Isaiah was born with a chromosome abnormality and while he performs at his grade level, he has a full-time nurse while at school.
Gardner said when her son arrived at his elementary school the staff seemed overwhelmed. But after a week out, she has no choice but to return her son to the classroom.
“Isaiah has to go back to school,” said Gardner. “I tell my friends that it feels like we got left out.”
The school district said the strike cost $22 to $24 million in per diem student funding from the state, and teachers went without pay for the duration of the walkout.