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    ‘Huge Historic Win’: Los Angeles Teachers Return to Class With New Raises

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    On Tuesday, the six-day Los Angeles teachers’ strike ended after teachers and staff voiced their support for a new agreement negotiated with the school board.

    The agreement, which received the votes of the majority of union members, establishes a 6 percent pay raise and promises a decrease in class sizes and the hiring of more librarians, nurses and counselors.

    ​Cecily Myart-Cruz, a teacher in the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) for 23 years and the Vice President of United Teachers Los Angeles(UTLA), joined Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Wednesday to discuss the new agreement.

    "It's a historic day today in Los Angeles," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told reporters late Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

    "Our members, after a strike that began on Monday, January 14, are going to be heading back to school [Wednesday] to the students that they love and the classrooms that they love and the schools that they love and are committed to," he added. 

    The new agreement, which includes a 6 percent pay raise for teachers, was struck Tuesday evening after a 21-hour negotiation session between the teachers' union and the school district.

    "It is a historic agreement," LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said, according to multiple reports. "It gets to lower class sizes. It gets to proper support staff."

    Myart-Cruz agreed, calling the new contract a "huge, historic win."

    "Of course we didn't get everything we wanted, but the strike did exactly what it was supposed to do," Myart-Cruz told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    "We took our power back and won a great contract. Having members [strike] for six days and one contract cannot solve 40 years of [issues] in our classroom. Over the last week, through the power of collective action and community support, we [teachers] have learned to raise our hopes and our expectations of what we can do. We won this strike for our students and for ourselves, but more importantly, the fight still continues. We're going to be resilient, because it's not over. We have to own this moment and this movement to save public education," she added.

    Over the last week, the union has been urging the district to hire more counselors, nurses, librarians and other professional staff while reducing class sizes. Initially, the LAUSD pushed back, claiming that the staffing demands would cost approximately $786 million a year when it is already running a $500 million annual deficit.

    "It [the agreement] addresses the major issues impacting our schools, our profession, our students. There are so many great things within this contract that we have to proud of. One, we were the international, local, state and national news story for six days. People are talking about privatization and what it does to the very foundation of public education," Myart-Cruz told Sputnik.

    In addition, the old contract, under a clause called Section 1.5, stated that the district's "fiscal distress" allowed it to breach agreed-upon cap sizes for classrooms. However, under the new agreement, Section 1.5 will be "removed in its entirety," according to the new contract. 

    "The district says they are broke on purpose and keep piling up students in our classrooms. This section 1.5 has been eliminated. The district can no longer have this escape clause and it really forces our district and forces the state to start dealing with lowering the class sizes," Myart-Cruz told Sputnik.

    In addition, the new contract seeks to establish a "District Assessment Committee," a group of four LAUSD members, four UTLA members and four parents, to review all district tests in order to decrease the number of assessments at each grade level by 50 percent.

    "Teachers want to teach. They don't want to test. They can come up with their own authentic assessments. They do that with efficacy every single day. Having extra tests burdening our classroom takes away from art, from PE [physical education], music and things that folks want to teach but can't because they have all all this unnecessary testing," Myart-Cruz added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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