LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thousands of teachers in Los Angeles returned to the job on Wednesday, fresh off a six-day strike against the second-largest U.S. school district that disrupted the education of half a million students.
Rank-and-file members of United Teachers Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly late on Tuesday to approve a 3-1/2-year contract agreement the union and school district had reached before dawn that day, union officials said.
The agreement gave teachers an immediate pay raise of 6 percent, slightly less than the 6.5 percent they had sought.
It also included provisions to reduce class sizes and hire more nurses, librarians and counselors, acceding to many of the union’s other demands for improving classroom conditions that all sides in the labor dispute agreed have suffered from decades of underfunding.
The Los Angeles Unified School District kept schools open during the strike by its more than 30,000 teachers, staffing campuses with substitute teachers and support staff to supervise students.
Students wanted to return to normal, Kelly Maloney, who teaches English at a downtown Los Angeles high school, told local television station KTLA.
“They’re bored,” Maloney said of his students, according to KTLA. “Going back is going to be a big transition for everyone - students, administrators, teachers.”
On Wednesday, 93 percent of students attended classes, which was on par with average figures before the strike, district spokeswoman Barb Jones said in an email.
Pupils’ attendance had dropped during the walkout, costing the district more than $150 million because its funding from the state is tied to daily attendance, the district said.
The teacher strike, the first in Los Angeles since 1989, began on Jan. 14, and lasted through six classroom days.
Some parents had to scramble to find childcare.
While the strike is over, the Los Angeles school board must still formally approve the deal when it meets on Jan. 29.
United Teachers Los Angeles planned to release exact figures on the ratification vote by its members on Friday, union Vice President Gloria Martinez said at a news conference.
The Los Angeles strike followed a flurry of teacher walkouts over salaries and school funding in several states last year, such as Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Labor actions were expected to continue at some U.S. school districts this year.
In Denver, public school teachers voted overwhelmingly late on Tuesday to go on strike to press their demands for more money and incentive pay.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Peter Cooney