As kids go back to school, what will look different at LAUSD?

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Palms Middle School. Photo by Amy Ta.

It's the first day of school at LAUSD, and teachers have a new contract that resulted from their six-day strike in January.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, points out new things that teachers, students, and parents will see this school year: class size caps, a gradual reduction in class sizes, more nurses, librarians and counselors, more green space on campuses, and legal assistance for families who may be affected by Trump's immigration policies. 

The district estimated that those changes would require some $400 million over the next three years, and in June, voters rejected a parcel tax that was aimed at raising millions (Measure EE). 

Caputo-Pearl says the failure of Measure EE was a blow. He says, "There were very well-funded interests - folks who support Donald Trump and put millions of dollars through the L.A. Chamber of Commerce - against a very modest increase that was mostly going to go on corporations and businesses to fund our schools, and it was rejected." 

But Caputo-Pearl still shows optimism and says the district has enough money to pay for the next few years of the agreement.

He also supports an initiative on the November 2020 ballot: the California Schools and Local Communities Act, which reforms taxes on the largest and wealthiest corporate property owners statewide. "If we just make them pay on their property at close to market value, that's $11 billion across the state for schools and social services," Caputo-Pearl says. 

He says he looks forward to working with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner on school funding and to ensure the contract is enforced. They had a tenuous relationship during the strike last year, and Caputo-Pearl believed Beutner wanted to turn LAUSD into a charter school district. 

In an effort to increase transparency, the school board now wants to have schools rated on a scale of 1 to 5, and parents would be able to see those ratings online.

"It's a classic move of the privatizers,” says Caputo-Pearl. “Basically what they want to do is rate schools, while not taking into account underfunding, while not taking into account arts, music, other things that schools offer; while not taking into account poverty and other things that shape schools… they want to rate them, and then use that to flip them into charters. So we absolutely oppose that." 

Caputo-Pearl suggests that his trust in Beutner will depend on what happens with enforcing the contract and working on the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative. "This is an important year for that relationship, and we're certainly in discussions, and we want to see things move forward well for students," he says. 

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir