L.A. teachers strike: What they won and what they didn't in tentative deal

Teacher pay, charter school expansion and class size -- which is far higher in Los Angeles than the national average -- were all on the table during the strike.
Image: Los Angeles Teachers Reach Tentative Strike Settlement
Educators, parents, students, and supporters of the Los Angeles teachers strike wave and cheer in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.Scott Heins / Getty Images

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By Dennis Romero

A seven-day teachers' strike at the second largest school district in the nation ended Tuesday with the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District agreeing to a deal that gave educators much of what they wanted, but not everything.

Tuesday night UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said a "vast supermajority" of members voted in favor of the contract, but that the results wouldn't likely be formalized until Wednesday. He said his members would be "back to school tomorrow."

At the beginning of the 35,000-member union's strike, Caputo-Pearl called it a "fight for the soul of public education."

United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks to a crowd of striking teachers in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles on January 22, 2019.Scott Heins / Getty Images

The UTLA might not have clearly won that fight for the soul of public schools, but the contract could be a sign that teachers are having a greater impact on education spending and policy.

The district was quick to spin the deal as a win for all. The agreement serves to "strengthen the voice of educators and provide more opportunities for collaboration for all who work in our schools," Superintendent Austin Beutner said.

The National Education Association, the largest national union for public school educators, said the contract was a victory for public schoolchildren.

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Here's some of what the union won compared to what they asked for:

Pay

A 6 percent pay increase that includes 3 percent in additional retroactive pay for last school year and 3 percent for this one. The union asked for 6.5 percent.

Class size

A vow by the district to reduce average class size, now at 42 for middle and high schools, by four students by the fall of 2021. Los Angeles has far bigger classes than the national average of about 27 in middle and high schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Charter schools

One key union demand -- that the district curtail the expansion of privately-run charter schools -- did not bear much fruit.

The district agreed to hold a board vote on whether or not to ask the state to place a cap on the continued expansion of charter schools, which the union says drains money from the district and serves a limited population of students.

School district officials argued all along that the future of charter schools is a matter for state legislators, not for school administrators. State law allows parents, teachers and residents to initiate a charter petition.

More investment in schools

New district spending through 2022 that adds up to $403 million, according to the LAUSD, which had put $130 million on the table. California ranks 41st in the nation in per pupil spending, according to the California Budget and Policy Center. That's a complete turnaround from 50 years ago when, in 1970, the Golden State ranked among the top 10 states in per pupil spending.

Nurses and counselors

The addition of enough nurses -- at least 300 -- to place one at every school by fall 2020, and full-time librarians at each middle and high school by fall 2020.

Community schools

A commitment from the district to create 30 "community schools" that would have local control and public funding.