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LAUSD Teachers Returning To Class Wednesday After Reaching Deal To End Strike

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – After a nine-day strike which forced about 600,000 students and 34,000 teachers out of the classroom, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers' union reached an agreement Tuesday on a new contract that will end the first LAUSD teachers' strike in 30 years.

With "a vast super-majority" of teachers voting to approve the tentative agreement according to an early count, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pear Tuesday night announced the agreement is assured of being ratified, sending teachers back to their classrooms Wednesday, Caputo-Pearl said.

The agreement, which followed five straight days of marathon negotiation sessions, also requires formal approval by LAUSD, considered a formality.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, Caputo-Pearl joined Mayor Eric Garcetti at a morning news conference at City Hall to announce the tentative deal. According to Garcetti, both sides negotiated at City Hall for 21 straight hours, beginning at about 9 a.m. Monday and ending at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

"I'm proud to announce that -- pending approval by the teachers that are represented by UTLA and education professionals, and the board of education -- that we have an agreement that will allow our teachers to go back to work, on their campuses, tomorrow," Garcetti said.

After 21 months of unsuccessful talks, LAUSD teachers went on strike Jan. 14, the first such strike since 1989. The district and the teachers union returned to the bargaining table on Jan. 17 and the two sides negotiated nonstop since then. The details of the talks were kept under wraps since the round-the-clock negotiations began.

LA Teachers Rally As Strike Drags On
Teachers and their supporters hold a rally in downtown Los Angeles on the ninth day of the L.A. Unified School District teachers' strike. Jan. 22, 2019. (CBS2)

"The issue has always been, how do we pay for it?" Beutner said Tuesday. "And that issue does not go away now that we have a contract. We can't solve 40 years of under-investment in public education in just one week and just one contract."

Caputo-Pearl said the agreement addressed the union's core issues regarding pay, reducing class sizes and hiring more support staff.

It includes a 6 percent pay raise for teachers, with 3 percent retroactive to the 2017-18 school year and another 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2018. The UTLA had demanded a 6.5 percent increase effective immediately, while the union had initially offered a 6 percent increase divided out over the first two years of a three-year deal.

Caputo-Pearl said the deal outlines a phased-in reduction of class sizes over the next three school years, with additional reductions for "high needs" campuses.

"Class size is something that has desperately needed to be addressed in Los Angeles, and we have started down a real path to addressing class sizes," Caputo-Pearl told reporters.

The deal also includes provisions for more support staff. It provides for a full-time nurse at all schools, along with a teacher-librarian. The proposal also calls for the hiring of 17 counselors by October.

"Nurses, librarians and counselors -- so many schools have gone without for so long -- and now they'll have those crucial services," Caputo-Pearl said.

Negotiations had also hinged on the debate between public schools and privatizing schools through charters. The union wants to ensure that privatization doesn't cut public school funding. The deal calls on the district to support a statewide cap on charter schools and to provide regular reports on proposed co-locations of charter and public school campuses.

"We talked about charter schools and the importance in investing in existing schools," Caputo-Pearl said. "And the importance of having accountability and regulation on charter schools, which is a part of the broader agreement."

Another disagreement was over a reported $1.8 billion district reserve. UTLA argues that the reserve could be tapped to pay for its demands, while Beutner has said the reserve has already been fully earmarked, including for the potential raises for teachers.

"As we said, we're spending every nickel we have," Beutner said Tuesday. "The reserves being spent in schools. The county has stepped up to support mental health and nursing in our schools. And the government's team and leadership in Sacramento has. So, it's all in for schools."

According to the district, the agreement's provisions for reducing class sizes and hiring more support staff will cost an estimated $175 million from 2019-21, and $228 million for 2021-22. It was unclear exactly how the costs will be covered. Garcetti said the deal's various provisions will include a combination of funding or other support from the state, county and city.

Garcetti, meanwhile, noted that the negotiation sessions were generally civil and respectful.

"We actually got along quite well when we were in the room," Garcetti said. "We were able to fight with each other when we needed to fight each other, or to witness fights when that was necessary. I'm not saying that everybody is going to go have a beer together today. But I do think that this is a new chapter. One in which they need each other, and I need them to need each other, and I want to be involved in that too."

The county Office of Education, which oversees the district and has raised questions in recent weeks about the LAUSD's financial stability, will have to review the proposed deal.

All 1,240 LAUSD schools were open during the strike, and those students who chose to come to class had substitute teachers. Four hundred substitutes were hired to fill in during the strike and 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials were reassigned. LAUSD also controversially eased background check requirements for parent volunteers.

District officials said the UTLA strike, which kept teachers out of classrooms for six school days, cost LAUSD an estimated $151.4 million in attendance-based state funding. That amount is partially offset by an estimated $10 million per day by the salaries that were not paid to striking teachers. Nearly 111,000 students went to class on Tuesday, up 30 percent from 87,559 on Friday.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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