L.A. teachers to receive 5% raise, pandemic-related bonuses under tentative agreement
Teachers in the Los Angeles school district would receive a 5% raise and bonuses under a tentative agreement announced Wednesday by L.A. Unified and the teachers union.
The proposed union contract also would update pandemic-related safety protocols, including the frequency of coronavirus testing among teachers and staff, and would provide union endorsement of a district policy that entitles students in quarantine to receive live instruction.
Union members will vote on the deal starting Sept. 30. The agreement also must be approved by the Board of Education for the nation’s second-largest school system. The board’s approval is expected.
United Teachers Los Angeles represents more than 30,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors. The raise would go to all of them, as would a one-time $2,000 stipend for the current school year and an additional $500 bonus, called a technology stipend, that is being assigned to the prior academic year. Schooling last year took place almost entirely under remote learning conditions, making use of computers and, sometimes, internet access provided by the school system.
Nurses, who are in short supply, would receive a $5,000 retention bonus spread over three years.
The contract negotiations focused primarily on the size of salary increases and COVID-19 safety measures — with both sides expressing satisfaction with the outcome.
“First and foremost, the agreement recognizes that COVID-19 is still very much with us,” union President Cecily Myart-Cruz said.
This agreement provides students and families “clear expectations and support for learning at home if they are asked to isolate or quarantine,” L.A. school board President Kelly Gonez and interim Supt. Megan K. Reilly said in a joint statement.
In terms of safety measures, the agreement calls for continued weekly testing of students and staff — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — for the remainder of the fall semester, which ends Dec. 17. Unvaccinated students and staff would continue to be tested in the spring semester.
Also, masking would continue to be required outdoors as well as indoors for everyone on campus. County and state rules do not require masking outdoors. The use of high-grade air filtration also would continue at least until Dec. 1.
In general, the safety rules adopted by L.A. Unified have been more strict than those of the county and state — with the union pushing for safety protocols that are stricter still. This emphasis has won praise from many families and employees. Critics, however, have argued that unnecessarily large numbers of students and staff have been sent home for quarantines, significantly disrupting learning.
L.A. Unified — with the union’s endorsement — also took the step of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all staff and for all students 12 and older. These orders have yet to take full effect.
Still unsettled is the question of whether L.A. Unified will adopt more flexible quarantine guidelines recently approved by the county health department. Under those rules, students who are in close contact may be able to remain in class provided that the student and the infected individual were wearing masks. L.A. Unified rules mandate a quarantine for the exposed student in that circumstance.
The union had wanted to move in the other direction, with stricter quarantine rules.
District officials said this week they are weighing whether to align with the county quarantine policy.
A local advocacy group on Wednesday called for adopting the county’s more flexible standard.
“Los Angeles Unified needs to adopt the county’s new modified quarantine rules immediately,” said Katie Braude, founder and chief executive of Speak Up. “The lives of parents and kids have been disrupted enough.”
The new pact also addresses what happens when students must quarantine at home because they are a close contact of a person infected with the coronavirus.
Quarantined students would have access to video livestreaming for at least 50% of the instructional day, the timing of which would be determined by the teacher. Similar arrangements already were in force under the order of interim Supt. Reilly.
Students who are at home because they are sick also would be able to take advantage of the livestreaming. And in a nod to another form of natural disaster — wildfires — teachers would provide virtual instruction for students when a wildfire-related school shutdown lasts more than one day, unless the teacher is personally affected by the fire emergency.
Another part of the agreement touches on serious understaffing at the City of Angels independent study program, which has become the landing spot for families who choose not to return to in-person classes.
The pact allows for voluntary, and some involuntary, teacher transfers to help out, while giving teachers the right to return later to their original campuses.
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