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Big Changes To Come For LAUSD Teachers And Support Staff As Two Labor Deals Move Forward

Protesters wearing red shirts, red sweaters, and red jackets hold signs at a protest. The two women in focus have light brown skin, and the one in front wears her hair in two long braids and holds a red whistle in her teeth while she walks. The woman behind her holds a sign that reads "We need smaller class sizes."
Unionized school support staff and United Teachers Los Angeles rallied together at L.A. State Historic Park on March 23, 2023. UTLA joined a three-day strike in support of Service Employees International Union Local 99.
(Ashley Balderrama
for LAist)
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The majority of Los Angeles Unified School District employees will see their salaries increase by double-digit percentages after the finalization of two labor contracts.

After an overnight bargaining session, United Teachers Los Angeles reached a deal with the district early Tuesday morning to increase educators’ salaries 21% by June 2025.

Tuesday afternoon, the LAUSD board approved a contract to raise school support staff’s pay by an average of 30%.

The two agreements also promise to reduce class sizes, provide health insurance for part-time workers and increase the number of mental health workers on school campuses.

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The deals followed a three-day strike in March by school support staff that shut down schools when teachers walked off the job in solidarity.

The strike “united UTLA and SEIU,” said Haydee Malacas Hart, a parent community representative at Carson High School and member of Service Employees International Union Local 99. “That was so empowering.”

The fruit of organizing

The walkout by Service Employees International Union Local 99’s 24,000 members was in protest of alleged harassment and other unfair labor charges. Negotiations between the district and the union had reached an impasse and the previous contract had expired during the pandemic.

“They were calling us heroes and saying, ’You're doing an awesome job. You stepped up when everybody else didn't,’ [and] at the moment it was great,” said Panorama City special education assistant Jennifer Torres. “But those heroes never turned into zeroes in our paychecks.”

When teachers walked off the job in 2019, schools remained open. There were “sympathy strikes” at a number of schools, but many support staff continued to work, driving school buses and serving meals.

March’s work stoppage was different. The district’s roughly 35,000 teachers joined the walkout as the threat of a strike loomed over the district’s negotiations with the teachers.

Raises and more support for students

Salary increases are the most-applauded — and expensive— part of the new contracts.

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The average support staff employee will make $33,000 a year by Jan. 2024. The average teacher will make more than $106,000 a year by July 2025, according to the district.

While the total cost of the new contracts was not available Tuesday, L.A. Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the sum is within the district’s means.

“The state has provided two back-to-back, very solid budget years with a cost of living adjustment that allowed us to compose these offers,” he said in audio provided by the district. L.A. Unified currently has a more than $5 billion budget reserve, which includes money set aside to offset the cost of inflation.

The students … they so deserve having a supportive educational environment, not only academically, but socially and emotionally.
— Arlene Inouye, United Teachers Los Angeles secretary

The agreements also promise other staffing changes and employee benefits.

For example, classroom assistants who work with special education students can add more hours to their schedules.

“I can stay behind and work with [students] more on a one-on-one basis that we normally wouldn't get that opportunity,” Torres said. She said she’ll also be able to complete required professional development courses.

LAUSD will also offer health insurance to part-time support staff who work at least four hours a day.

The tentative UTLA contract promises to hire more school psychologists and social workers and add a college counselor to high schools with 900 or more students.

“This contract is for the lives of everyone in Los Angeles,” said United Teachers Los Angeles secretary Arlene Inouye. “The students … they so deserve having a supportive educational environment, not only academically, but socially and emotionally.”

What’s next

The retroactive payments for district support staff are scheduled to be included in paychecks starting in June.

“That's for work that's already been done,” District 6 Board Member Kelly Gonez said at Tuesday’s meeting. ”I think we want to make sure we get that as soon as possible.”

Support staff are already gearing up for the next round of negotiations as their current contract expires next year.

“We still have a long way to go,” special education assistant Torres said. “This is the foundation.”

UTLA members and the L.A. Unified School District Board must vote to finalize the new contract for teachers. It took about three weeks for SEIU Local 99 to go through that process.

“We have maximum power right now, and it's going to keep evolving from this point on even further,” Inouye said.

How to weigh in on LAUSD decisions

Find Your LAUSD Board Member
What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California? What’s a story that’s not being told about your school?
Mariana Dale wants to hear from parents, educators, and students about what’s happening in schools — the successes and challenges.

Updated April 18, 2023 at 5:55 PM PDT
This story has been updated with additional reporting from throughout the day.
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