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Los Angeles Teachers Union To Vote On Tentative Agreement To End Strike

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today - a tentative deal in Los Angeles where teachers began a strike more than a week ago. Mayor Eric Garcetti called today's deal a historic agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC GARCETTI: For a city that embraced the idea that public education matters, that children matter, that teachers matter, today is a day full of good news.

CORNISH: It was cause for celebration for many teachers. Here is math teacher Donnie Walker.

DONNIE WALKER: I'm feeling awesome. I feel like our students really won, you know? It's been a while since I've seen them, but they know what we're fighting for. They have, you know, shown us a lot of confidence and support.

CORNISH: And Walker could see his students back in school as soon as tomorrow. For more, let's turn to KPCC's Kyle Stokes. And Kyle, are a lot of the people you've been talking to saying the same thing as Donnie Walker?

KYLE STOKES, BYLINE: That this is a good deal, that they're pretty excited to be heading back into classrooms. There's definitely a lot of excitement to have this deal in hand. Obviously the voting is, you know, supposed to commence now. The teachers are supposed to put their stamp on this tentative agreement. We were expecting the school board to also vote today. We've just learned that that vote is going to be delayed until a little bit later so that this can be properly noticed in the public.

But this was, as you sort of heard - this is being celebrated by both parties as an agreement that not only protects one big district priority, which is the finances of LAUSD, but also by the unions who've been aiming for real improvements in classroom conditions and in teaching conditions for the union members they represent.

CORNISH: What's in it?

STOKES: Well, so there's a lot of things. The big issue is class sizes. The two sides have agreed to a deal to reduce class sizes by an aggregate total of four students over the next three years. So it's a three-year deal. And even with that, the class sizes that the school district is going to have are well above national averages. But it takes a big chunk out of the class size differential that we've seen.

It's also a remarkable deal in that the district has relinquished the power that it had previously to raise class sizes to solve budget problems, essentially. They had wide authority in the past to do that - also quickly noting a 6 percent salary increase for teachers as well as an increase in staffing levels for nurses and counselors and social workers as well as some charter school regulations as part of this deal as well. That had been a big focus and a big anxiety among teachers here.

CORNISH: A sticking point had been finding the cash for all of these ideas. What changed over the last few days?

STOKES: Well, so what has changed over the last few days isn't necessarily clear. There's still a lot of money that we're talking about involved in this deal. It's not clear where all of it is going to come from. We do know a few things changed. One is that the county, Los Angeles County, came forward with some funding for more nurses. That's going to help in this deal. The city - you mentioned LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has been involved in this deal. The city is going to bring forward some assistance as part of this.

And the two sides have agreed to - well, all three sides - the union, the mayor and the district - have agreed to advocate for more funding. But a lot of this goes back to the state. There is more money in Governor Gavin Newsom's new state budget for K-12 education. But it's going to take probably even more money, you know, one would guess, given the sort of cost of what we're talking about. Class size reduction is not a cheap item by any means. So it's going to take more money to make this agreement sustainable.

CORNISH: Just a few seconds left. What's the order of business over the next few days?

STOKES: Well, so first is a vote of the teachers and then a forthcoming vote of the school board. The vote of the teachers, the rank and file members of United Teachers Los Angeles, is supposed to happen over the next day or so. And we should have results of that coming pretty shortly. The union says they can turn this vote around pretty quickly.

CORNISH: That's Kyle Stokes of KPCC. Thank you for your reporting.

STOKES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.