What LAUSD Teachers Think About The New Contract

Teachers on strike near City Hall in Downtown LA (c/o Victor Farias)

Los Angeles teachers returned to schools on Wednesday after negotiators for United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.

UTLA members voted on the contract and as of now, over 80 percent of the votes have been counted with overwhelming support for the new contract.

But a decisive tally of votes doesn't mean teachers think the new deal terms are a perfect fix. We talked to a handful of teachers from across the district to hear what they think of the new contract.

Victor Farias, right, striking with colleagues at City Hall. (c/o Victor Farias)

VICTOR FRIAS
Special Education teacher
Teresa Hughes Elementary
Cudahy

"When [the union] kept saying smaller class sizes, we thought that applied to everybody."

When they released the tentative agreement, first right away, I went to the special education section, and I read it and I said, "Hmm, it seems like it's identical to the previous contract." So then my fellow SPED teacher pulled up the previous contract. And the wording was almost identical.

When [the union] kept saying 'smaller class sizes,' we thought that applied to everybody. But to my understanding, the agreement on class size is only applied to the general population. The other special education class at my site had 17 students with only one paraprofessional [a special education assistant or aide] professional. Now it has 15 students, but the cap is 12. We want to know why that's not being enforced.

SPED teachers are outnumbered by the general education teachers. Their needs aren't our needs. In order for us to meet our student's IEP [Individualized Learning Plan] goals, we need to have that smaller, closer interaction with them so that we could we could give them quality instruction.

I think the strike should have gone longer to meet everybody's needs. But I also understand that it's going to take a while to undo the decades of mistake that have happened.

Kionna Hawkins on strike near her school. (c/o Kionna Hawkins)

KIONNA HAWKINS
Kindergarten Teacher
Lillian Street Elementary
South Los Angeles

"The longer we stayed out, the more difficult it was going to become."

I voted yes, I have no problem with sharing that. A lot of people were not happy because they felt like we were rushed to vote. But we also wanted to get back to work. We wanted to get back to our students. We wanted to get back to our classrooms. And I think the longer we stayed out, the more difficult it was going to become for the teachers, for the students, just for everyone. We would have lost a lot of community support.

We put our faith in our union; they bargained for us, we know they're with our best interest at heart so we have to put our faith in them and know that they did the best that they could. And if they say that we should vote yes, that was the agreement we should go with.

But we need to keep going. This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

Khrystle San Diego on strike at a downtown protest. (c/o Khrystle San Diego)

KHRYSTLE SAN DIEGO
Special Education Teacher
Undisclosed school in the Local District Central

"I'm just really on the fence right now."

I feel like [the contract] was just already decided on without giving us a real chance to vote. By the time I was driving, going to school [to vote], I had already received a voicemail from the superintendent saying, "We have reached an agreement. Thank you for your your hard work and trying to make our schools better." And I said, well, I didn't even have a chance to vote yet!

I have a feeling that the special-ed teachers were a bit forgotten in this agreement. If teachers really went deep into the 47-page agreement, they would have noticed that there was so much that was left out for special-ed.

I'm just really on the fence right now. But I'm proud of those who went out and I'm thankful to the other teachers that sacrificed a lot of their time and effort in order to try to make a difference. And I mean, we did make history. There had been progress. And as we say in special-ed, any progress is progress. So, if they were able to make a little bit of progress on this proposal, let's hope that they can make more in the future.

Armine Pogosian, second from left, on strike. (c/o Armine Pogosian)

ARMINE POGOSIAN
Fourth Grade Teacher
Fair Avenue Elementary School
North Hollywood

"In some people's eyes, we felt we would seem more greedy."

You can't get everything you want. You set high expectations, and you hope to receive as much of it as you can. I was really surprised to see so many negative comments. I would ask teachers, "What is it that we asked for, that we didn't get? Because we pretty much got what we asked for.' But I know that there's still room for growth, and that there's going to be more conversations.

We were really afraid that if we didn't accept — and that's not the reason why we did — but, if we didn't accept, we would lose a lot of supporters who would then think, "Oh, you're not happy with it, look at all the things you're getting." In some people's eyes, we felt we would seem more greedy.

It was gruesome being out there in the rain and the cold, and we were missing our kids. So it was a terrible experience to go through this, but it was also an uplifting one, which is weird to have both of those emotions at the same time.

Reale Santora, center, striking with her colleagues. (c/o Reale Santora)

REALE SANTORA
5th Grade Teacher
Topanga Elementary Charter School
Topanga

"We had had seven days on the line, and then we had two hours to read the contract."

We had to read the contract within about two hours and have ballots back across town to our union. And so we felt really rushed. We had had seven days on the line, and then we had two hours to read the contract.

I feel like we had some great victories, but there are some pieces missing. Special education services and pysch services for me were missing [from the contract], and that was a huge problem. They are just stretched way too thin.

When I got back to school, the kids wanted to know, "Hey, what are we getting?" And I had to explain to them what was won, and what wasn't won. I think that we could have held the line. I think that we had public support and we had so many of us — 34,000 teachers plus the parents. Sixty-thousand, 50,000 people in Grant Park multiple days in the rain. I think that we might be kicking ourselves in a few years that we didn't get the services for our kids now.