LOS ANGELES (CN) – The end of a week-long teacher strike in Los Angeles may be near, as nearly 30,000 union members and educators approved a proposed contract deal on Tuesday.
The contract agreement addresses reductions in classroom size, along with the hiring of more nurses, counselors and librarians across the Los Angeles Unified School District. A deal to increase teacher pay agreed to prior to the strike will also go into effect if the deal is approved by union membership, raising pay by roughly 6 percent.
Critics of the agreement have been divisive, with some questioning why teachers went on strike in the first place.
Preliminary numbers point to the agreement being approved by union members according to the United Teachers of Los Angeles at a Tuesday night press conference. Votes will continue to be counted on Wednesday.
“The struggle is not over but we’ve achieved a lot with this agreement,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “What an incredibly proud day this is to be a teacher.”
Caputo-Pearl added, “We didn’t get everything we wanted in special education. There’s going to be some left to struggle for next time.”
Critics of the agreement said special education and elementary schools were not fully addressed. Under the new contract, special education teachers will be given two days a year to address compliance issues and some of their caseloads will be reduced but class sizes were not addressed.
Tiffany Gardner, whose 10-year-old son Isaiah was born with a chromosome abnormality, said his school was unprepared when he started the school year.
After the tentative contract agreement was announced, Gardner said she was happy the strike would be over, but then she read through it and saw that none of her concerns over special education were addressed.
“Special education got left in the dust,” Gardner said in a phone interview. “And what about early education? Class sizes are some of the biggest issues why parents leave public schools.”
The agreement will reduce class sizes at targeted elementary schools and some middle schools but that will not happen for a few years.
“We missed a week of work and wages and came back with nothing,” Gardner said. “We marched in the rain. We put our lives on hold and then we got nothing. It’s a slap in the face.”
Earlier in the day, some were optimistic about the strike being over.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot more to do,” said Kleber Camacho Jr., a science teacher at Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles. “The reasons why money is tight are still out there.”
He and his fellow teachers were gathered at the school, waiting for a vote at 5 p.m. He predicted approval after the deal was announced Tuesday morning. “There were cheers at the rally,” he said.
“We are getting money for a nurse,” he said, as part of the deal that promises a nurse on every campus and librarians and counselors for the larger schools. In addition, the deal carries with it an effort to regulate charter schools which currently operate with very few constraints.
“They are giving charters the locations that have money,” said Camacho. He noted that a charter has set up on the campus of the middle school directly across from his public school, where they have the pick of the students. “They are competing for students on our campus,” he said. “The selection of students is a big factor in the success of a school. Charters send out flyers on how great they are, how bad we are. It’s all propaganda.”