LOS ANGELES (CN) – A week after Los Angeles Unified School District reached a deal with the teachers’ union to end a citywide strike, the district’s board on Tuesday unanimously approved the contract and called for a statewide moratorium on charter schools – a move that has divided the community.
Last week, members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles union ended a six-day strike with a new contract promising to reduce class sizes, hire more nurses, counselors and other staff, a pay increase for teachers and a cap on the number of new charter schools in the district.
A deal to increase teacher pay agreed to prior to the strike will also take effect, raising pay by roughly 6 percent.
When the tentative agreement was announced, LA Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said the nearly $2 billion in the district’s reserve funding would be spent to meet the goals of the agreement.
On Tuesday, the LA Unified Board of Education unanimously approved the new contract despite a report by a county education oversight agency saying the agreement is not sustainable for the district. The Los Angeles County Office of Education said LA Unified would not be able to meet its reserve requirements going into the 2020-21 school year.
The report said the new contract is based mostly on one-time funding sources and projected revenues, like cost estimates from Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019-2020 budget, and those can be key indicators for risk of potential insolvency.
“It’s up to us collectively to make it sustainable,” board member Nick Melvoin said. “Also, to work collectively with this larger community to grow this pie.”
The board’s approval also drew outcry from parents of charter school students, who said a proposed moratorium or cap on the opening of new schools singles them out for the district’s financial woes. Parents and educators from schools rallied outside the meeting and asked the board to reject the process to compile a report and set in motion a temporary moratorium on new charter schools.
Nonetheless, the board ordered an extensive report to look at the nation’s second largest school district’s relationship with its charter schools. State regulators will be asked to conduct a review of the statewide charter school system from top to bottom, including financing and management, nearly 25 years after the first charter school was formed in LA.
Board member Richard Vladovic denied claims by charter school supporters that the moratorium is a means to ban the schools.
“This is not eliminating choice, this is saying step back and look at the impact on this district,” Vladovic said to the packed audience. “I have to look out for the finances and future of this district.”
Alyssa Avalos’ son attends charter schools in Los Angeles. Through tears she said, “Where I live, we need charter schools. I feel like public schools failed me. I’m not asking you to neglect public schools.”
Outside the meeting, parents Becky Boise, Vanessa Salle and Louise Boraine – whose children attend Citizens of the World Charter School – said the teacher’s strike made charter schools a scapegoat for the district’s financial woes.
“We’re being blamed for their schools losing money,” said Boise. “Charter schools should never have been used as a bargaining chip for the strike.”
Boraine said, “It seems like charter schools and their existence have been given to UTLA as an agreement.”
The board’s request is not binding on the state.