LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Thousands of teachers in Los Angeles returned to the job on Wednesday, fresh off a six-day strike against the nation’s second largest school district that disrupted the education of half a million students.
Teachers gather at Grand Park in Los Angeles for a rally after their union reached a deal with school district officials on a new proposed contract in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Alex Dobuzinskis
Rank and file members of United Teachers Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly late on Tuesday to approve a 3-1/2 year contract agreement that the union and school district had reached before dawn that day, union officials said.
The agreement gave teachers an immediate pay raise of 6 percent, slightly less than the 6.5 percent they had sought.
It also included provisions for reducing class sizes and hiring more nurses, librarians and counselors, acceding to many of the union’s other demands for improving classroom conditions that all sides in the labor dispute agreed have suffered from decades of underfunding.
The Los Angeles Unified School District kept schools open during the strike, staffing them with substitute teachers and support staff to supervise students. Attendance at schools dropped, according to the district.
Students were ready to return to normal, Kelly Maloney, who teaches English at a downtown Los Angeles high school, told local television station KTLA.
“They’re bored,” Maloney said of his students, according to KTLA. “Going back is going to be a big transition for everyone – students, administrators, teachers.”
The strike began on Jan. 14, when Los Angeles Unified’s more than 30,000 teachers walked off the job in their first strike in three decades.
Some parents had to scramble to find childcare.
Maria Ramos, 32, told the Los Angeles Times as she dropped off her 5-year-old daughter at an elementary school in South Los Angeles that she was glad the strike was over.
“It makes me feel better to know she’s inside,” Ramos told the newspaper. “More so now that she’ll be with her teacher.”
While the strike is over, the Los Angeles school board must still formally approve the deal when it meets on Jan. 29.
The Los Angeles strike followed a flurry of teacher walkouts over salaries and school funding in several states last year, such as Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Labor actions were expected to continue at some U.S. school districts this year.
In Denver, public school teachers overwhelmingly voted late on Tuesday to go on strike to press their demands for more money and incentive pay, after negotiations with Colorado’s largest school district hit an impasse last week.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bill Berkrot