Los Angeles Teachers Reach Agreement to Settle Weeklong Strike

(Bloomberg) -- Striking Los Angeles teachers agreed to a new contract with the second-largest U.S. school district, potentially ending a walkout that left more than half a million children without instructors for six days.

Members of United Teachers of Los Angeles are voting on the proposal Tuesday with the goal of returning to work Wednesday, Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said at a press conference at City Hall.

The teachers, who number more than 30,000, will get a 6 percent raise -- what the Los Angeles Unified School District had initially offered -- according to Superintendent Austin Beutner. The district agreed to reduce class sizes and hire additional support staff, including nurses and counselors, the parties said. Further details are expected to be released later.

“We’re spending every nickel we have,” Beutner said at the press conference. “It’s all in for schools.”

Los Angeles, second only to New York in enrollment, hasn’t had a strike by teachers in 30 years. Schools were kept open, with pupils herded into auditoriums and gyms to be supervised by a skeleton crew of administrators and security guards. Parents who kept their children out of school had to scramble for alternatives, with some taking turns watching each other’s kids.

Shrinking Enrollment

The district has lost more than a third of its enrollment over the past two decades due to declining birth rates, high housing costs that led families to move, and non-union charter schools that have attracted students.

The strike was to some degree a showdown between school-board members, many of whom were elected on a pro-charter platform, and the union, which has branded Superintendent Beutner, a former investment banker, as a corporate downsizer and privateer.

Caputo-Pearl said the agreement includes greater “accountability and regulation” for charter schools, including where they are located.

The state, county and city all stepped up with additional funding, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The deal, which he helped broker, is a victory for the mayor, who is mulling a run for president in 2020.

All parties indicated they would lobby for the Schools and Communities First Act, a proposed ballot measure for next year that would increase funding for schools by rolling back limits on property taxes on commercial buildings that were enacted decades ago under Proposition 13.

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