Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer
Thousands of Los Angeles teachers returned to their classrooms on Wednesday, Jan. 23 following a six-day strike. The teachers did not get all that they were hoping for; however, the teachers’ union did gain smaller class sizes. This goal was a large part of their reason to strike. Teachers were over full capacity with 45-50 students per class in some Los Angeles classrooms. The new deal that was struck will bring down the number of students per class in accordance with the school year. For grades 4-12, classrooms will be reduced by: one student in 2019-20, one student in 2020-21, and two students 2021-22. In addition to this, classes for third grade and below will now be capped at 17 to 24 students. This information was provided by United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA.)
Along with reducing class sizes, schools will also add additional but necessary personnel such as, nurses, counselors, and librarians. In the next two years, 300 school nurses will be added to the school districts. This means that every public school in Los Angeles will now have its own nurse. Over the next three years, 77 new counselors will be added. Previously, the student-to-counselor ratio was 500:1. The teachers also secured a raise. This is a huge success for the public school teachers. The raises will be implemented incrementally with a 6 percent raise for teachers retroactively for the 2017-18 school year, then a 3 percent increase for the current school year. Originally, the teachers’ union asked for 6.5 percent raises. According to CNN, these raises will total $403 million over the next three school years.
This leads to the question of where this money will come from. “A portion of the $403 million will come from assigned reserves … and a portion will come from an anticipated increase in state revenue,” LAUSD spokeswoman Barbara Jones said. “We also have commitments from the state and county, such as the $10 million approved by the [Los Angeles County] Board of Supervisors for mental health.” A state tax referendum on the 2020 ballot is also one way that could help generate $1.4 billion for the LA area schools.
Not everyone is thrilled about these changes. The increase in librarians and counselors will only come to grades 4-12. A lot of these parents see it as paramount to allocate these resources to children that are younger and seen as more vulnerable. The strike was in a way, a push back on the notion of charter schools. As public schools struggle, charter schools for some families are seen as more attractive options. Many of the teachers in the strike see charter schools as taking away from public education and making education something one can buy rather than a public good for all.