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UTLA Teachers Protest Amid Contract Negotiations

LAUSD says it is working to develop a budget that treats employees equitably. Alexa Liacko reports. 

Negotiations were on Thursday between the Los Anegeles Unified School District and the United Teachers Los Angeles UNION (UTLA). Teachers and parents rallied across LA County for higher wages and better school conditions.

One of the schools teachers and parents picketed at was George Washington Carver Middle School. The library has been closed because there has not been funding for a librarian for the past four years. Yet, UTLA is suggesting the new budget passed by Governor Jerry Brown can change that.

According to Pearl-Caputo, there is also a common core fund with nearly 60 million dollars that, "The district is supposed to use to pay educators a reasonable wage, their hourly wage to prepare lessons, to prepare using the common core."

And, he said the money needs to be used by June of this year.  "That’s the kind of thing that when LAUSD says their broke, that’s the kind of thing that cuts against their credibility," said Pearl-Caputo. "They’re sitting on money and its money that can be used to improve schools." 

According to teachers, the schools are really what need the most work. Because if budget cuts over the past several years, teachers say it's the students who suffer the most.

"They come to a school that’s not clean so they don’t feel that connection to the school, they don’t have that school pride because when they arrive, they see their needs are not being met socially" said English teacher Marisa Villalobos.

Christian Zimmerman is a Special Education teacher, and he says his department is lacking the staffing they need. This expands school wide. "We’re operating on a skeleton crew. Our custodial staff is at an absolute minimum. We’re dealing with unclean classrooms, unclean bathrooms, and its just embarrassing and it’s unsafe," Zimmerman said.

One parent even volunteers to help the janitorial staff clean the school because it's so bad. "Because I’m a mom, I want the best for my child, and her education is more important than anything else," said Ana Medina, a mother of three who has a daughter at the school. "Right now we have one person cleaning the school, and you can’t just have one person cleaning a school this big. And that matters a lot—that our kids will be in a clean place. That matters a lot," Medina said.

The teachers say they are prepared to strike if further action isn't taken.  LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines  released a statement saying the district is trying to raise teacher salaries and make class sizes smaller.

"I respect the teachers’ point of view but I want them to know that LAUSD has been in a negative financial situation for several years. We are in recovery mode from the Great Recession and at the same time, responding to declining enrollment, among other factors. We are working to develop a budget that treats employees equitably."

"The bottom line is what’s best for the kids," said Zimmerman. The district and the teachers' union are in negotiations to solve these issues, but in the mean time, teachers will be holding an even larger rally on February 26, 2015 in downtown Los Angeles. 

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