When the 35,000 instructors and staff represented by United Teachers of Los Angeles ended a six-day strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday, a collective sigh of relief could be heard in Burbank.
The unpaid stoppage didn’t just affect Los Angeles teachers and the more than 600,000 students attending nearly 1,000 district schools, but it also hit home for some local residents.
Nearly 400 Burbank residents employed in the Los Angeles Unified School District also returned to work, according to a figure provided by Diana Abasta, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn.
One person who is pleased the strike is over is Burbank resident and Edison Elementary School mom Allison Meadows, whose son Emmett, 7, is a second-grader.
The Hollywood High School Title I and English Language Coordinator felt the love upon reentering her classroom.
“It definitely felt good to be back at work, and it felt good to be appreciated by our staff and students,” Meadows said. “There were a little mixed feelings with people upset with the contract, different employees and colleagues, but overall, it was good, and everyone is relieved to be back with our students [and] off the picket line.”
Meadows marched with those on strike for six days and also gathered with other educators at a few rallies in downtown Los Angeles.
“It might sound cliché, but it never was about pay,” Meadows said. “We really stood for the class sizes and about different services. The school district is going to lower sizes a bit and keep the benefits the same, which is what we want.”
Meadows wasn’t the only Edison mom on strike.
LAUSD early childhood specialist Trisha Padilla sympathized with Los Angeles parents and was thankful her daughter Grace, 7, and stepdaughter Isabella, 12, who attend Edison and Jordan Middle School, respectively, were not in the same predicament.
“For me, it was probably easier emotionally because my kids were taken care of,” Padilla said. “I was most worried about the kids in special education because those parents have a very hard time finding someone that could watch their kids.”
Padilla spends most of her day preparing individualized education programs and plans for special-education children, so she didn’t have a specific class to which she returned.
“That’s why my strike experience is a little different from most teachers,” she said. “I didn’t leave a classroom or classrooms of kids. I can imagine how difficult that must have been.”
Abasta, who helped organize a walk-in at Burroughs High on Jan. 11 in support of L.A. teachers, said Burbank loses many talented educators who head for greener pastures.
“There are many teachers who would love to work in Burbank who live here, but can’t for salary reasons, benefits or another reason,” Abasta said.
Those differences were highlighted in the final agreement as LAUSD instructors received a 6% pay raise and the district committed to hiring more school nurses, librarians and counselors.
Burbank Unified, on the other hand, gave its teachers only a 2% raise last fall and is proposing to cut programs and staff in the wake of a $3.5-million structural budget deficit.
Former American Sign Language teacher ArbyJean Tacub, a Burbank Unified product, said in a video she left Burbank High last year for Los Angeles Unified’s Taft High School because of “burnout.”
Tacub said she worked 14-hour days last school year and was employed part-time at Pasadena City College and Glendale Community College on top of a full-time position at Burbank High.
“The reason I did this was because of pay,” Tacub said. “I wasn’t earning enough to cover everything that needs to be covered like rent, bills and student loans.”