Los Angeles Charter School Teachers Are Back in School After Eight-Day Strike
A group of charter educators in Los Angeles are returning to their classrooms today, nearly a week after the rest of the city's teachers went back.
About 80 teachers from three public charter schools in Los Angeles concluded an eight-day strike today with a tentative agreement that includes more job protections for teachers and improvements to health benefits.
The teachers at the Accelerated Schools charter network are members of the United Teachers Los Angeles, but they have a separate contract from the one that covers all regular district schools. The charter teachers joined the massive Los Angeles Unified teacher strike a day after it began, but continued striking for several days after the traditional public school teachers reached an agreement. (The Los Angeles Unified strike involved more than 30,000 educators and lasted for six days, with a contract deal that included smaller class sizes, more support staff, and investments in socially minded initiatives.)
Juli Quinn, the president of the board of trustees at Accelerated Schools, wrote in an open letter that the network's last offer to UTLA included job security for teachers next year, an increase in health benefits coverage, a $10,000 annual bonus for teachers for the next three years, and $10,000 severance pay for teachers not offered a contract in future years. (The union has said the charter network often arbitrarily lets teachers go.) The charter network also gave teachers a 17 percent pay raise last year.
UTLA said in a statement the deal "makes significant progress toward satisfying our members' core demands for increased job security" and addresses "the problem of high teacher turnover that has plagued the schools for too long and hindered student learning."
This was the first charter school strike in California, and only the second-ever charter teacher strike in the country.
The nation's first teacher strike at a charter school was in Chicago last month. Teachers there received a pay raise, an agreement to reduce class sizes, and an establishment of sanctuary for undocumented students. Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said the message to charter school teachers was to "give the union a call."
The CTU has since announced that teachers at four other charter campuses will go on strike Feb. 5 if contract negotiations are not resolved. Those teachers plan to strike for more classroom resources, smaller class sizes, more support staff, and better pay for teaching assistants.
Only 11 percent of charter schools are unionized, but teachers' unions are making inroads. Los Angeles is home to 277 charter schools, more than anywhere else in the country. About 225 of those schools—including the Accelerated Schools—are publicly funded but privately run.
Image: Los Angeles Unified teachers wear ponchos and red T-shirts during the strike. —Morgan Lieberman for Education Week