The United Teachers Los Angeles union scored a historic victory on Tuesday when the city’s school district finally relented and agreed to a huge host of concessions for the teachers and the students in a set of long overdue changes that not only will improve the quality of the educational experience for the nation’s largest public school system but also dealt a significant blow to the pernicious efforts of the ultrawealthy to end public schooling in Los Angeles as we know it.
After six days of striking in the pouring rain, the UTLA and Mayor Eric Garcetti reached a deal in a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that is expected to be approved by the union’s members in short order.
Decades of underinvestment and neglect by the city — East LA hasn’t had a new public school built in forty years — have led to understaffed schools and some of the largest class sizes in the nation. To address that, the city will hire 300 full-time nurses, 17 full-time counselors (bringing the counselor to student ratio to 1 per 500), and 82 teacher-librarians.
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The district has agreed to repeal their ruling which allowed schools to ignore class size caps and capped the size of math classes at 39 students. The school district has promised to help fight for more funding from the county and the state, and all teachers will receive a 6% raise.
But perhaps the most important win of all was throwing a wrench in the creeping machinations of the billionaires’ intent on turning our public schools into for-profit charters and taxpayer-funded religious schools.
The school superintendent of the Los Angeles school district is hedge fund billionaire Austin Buetner, a man with no educational background whatsoever. He and his wealthy cronies on the school board have been spearheading efforts to starve LA’s public schools of funds, driving kids out of public schools and into charter schools, and have charter schools literally kick kids out of their classrooms through Prop 39’s “co-location” occupation process.
The deal struck with the UTLA promises that the Board of Education will put a cap on charter school creation and the establishment of UTLA co-location coordinators to manage the process and ensure that the public schools aren’t getting the short end of the stick when it comes to managing school spaces.
Finally, the deal also creates a pilot program to begin phasing out the use of random searches of students by law enforcement — intrusive and dehumanizing searches that unsurprisingly tend to fall on students of black or Latinx descent.
The successful teacher strikes in West Virginia last year started a chain reaction across the country — and the successes of the UTLA are sure to inspire more.
For far too long, the megawealthy and their bought politicians have been chipping away at our public schools in a despicable attempt to create a two-tiered system where some kids have it better than others. Those efforts have been dealt a major blow thanks to the dedicated organizers at the UTLA and the passion of the educators who just want the best for their students.