For six days 30,000 Los Angeles school employees picketed to secure better working conditions for teachers. Beginning on Monday, January 14, the strike included teachers, nurses, students, custodians, and even local citizens. The participants demanded that the hardworking teachers of LA receive a raise due to their large class sizes and heavy workload. Standing often in the pouring rain, the protestors held signs and pleaded for change. After much deliberation, the United Teachers Los Angeles was able to come up with an agreement that satisfied everyone, according to CNN.
While picketers believed the strike was necessary and long overdue, it was not without cost. During the protest, 600,000 students were without their regular teachers. Attendance rates plunged and many parents decided to stop sending their children to school in hopes that the lack of funds would lead to a quicker resolution. The first week alone cost the school district more than $125 million. The drastic loss was because the funds provided to the California school system are based largely on attendance. With less students coming to school, the funds quickly dwindled.
Although some teachers felt guilty about temporarily abandoning their students, they stuck it out. “We work with students every day who face trauma and face hardship,” Garfield High School teacher Erika Huerta said. “So we’re doing this as a life passion to improve our community.” Due to the steadily increasing classroom sizes in the district, students aren’t able to get the one-on-one attention that they need to learn. In addition, the lack of enough staff members caused teachers to work twice as hard. Although the district recognized the problem, they had been hesitant to supply the funds to employ more teachers.
Luckily, the teachers will be returning to work on Wednesday knowing that change is coming. The Los Angeles school district is now at work on a new contract that will provide a hefty 6 percent salary increase to educators. In addition, they will work to limit class sizes and employ the additional staff members that are so desperately needed.
Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti believes this new deal with be an improvement to the entire community. “It is a historic agreement. It gets to lower class sizes. It gets to proper support staff,” he said.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl helped organize and lead the protest. Today he is proud of those who toughed it out. “Our members after a strike that began on Monday, January 14, are going to be heading back to school, to the students that they love and the classrooms that they love and the schools that they love and are committed to,” he said.