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Los Angeles: SPED teachers not happy about strike settlement; needs not addressed

Jan 31, 2019, LAist: LA's Special Education Teachers Are Speaking Up About Contract Shortcomings Eighty-one percent of Los Angeles teachers voted for the contract that ended their strike earlier this month. But there's still a lot of concern coming from one group: special-ed teachers.
They say sections of the L.A. Unified School District contract related to their needs —and, by extension, the needs of their students — haven't been significantly changed in decades. One major issue is class size, which didn't budge for special-ed classrooms during the recent negotiations…. Amber Schwindler teaches a special education class for autistic students at Germaine Street Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley. She met with LAist after a long school day this week. To demonstrate one of the many challenges of her job, she pulled out a laminated math worksheet she'd made using velcro numbers and the equation two plus zero. It might look like a simple addition equation, she said, but for her students, it's not. "Every kid has an individualized need... there's 17 steps in order to tie your shoe... and people don't think of this task analysis... That's a lot for 10 kids." … … When I say we're doing addition , we're doing addition, and OT, and speech, and everything — all at one time." Roughly 73,000 LAUSD students are served in special education, making the district one of the highest special education populations in the country. According to LAUSD, it spent an average of $20,689 dollars per special-ed student last year; that's about $8,000 more per pupil compared to general education students. … While a class of 10 might sound reasonable, she said, it can quickly become unmanageable.
And Schwindler's frustration is that not much has changed for these students in nearly four decades. The shortage of knowledge, she explained, meant solutions were tough to agree on. As Gloria Martinez, elementary vice president of the teacher's union, told LAist, "It's astounding." Garcia said part of the problem is a lack of accurate data. No one knows exactly what's going on in special-ed classrooms. "We couldn't start negotiating class size numbers with numbers that we weren't sure of ourselves," she said. "There were some schools that were reporting a 400 percent student special-ed population. That's not possible." Even though special-ed class sizes was difficult to negotiate on, there was a bright spot: the new contract calls for a joint task force to study teacher caseloads to improve the results of the next bargaining session. … The committee will also make recommendations for ensuring that students receive appropriate services and provide strategies to better integrate students with disabilities into the general education classroom. The statement also notes that LAUSD remains committed to pursuing additional funding so that more options become available to special-education teachers. The district already secured a five-year, $5 million grant that will help Los Angeles Unified recruit credentialed special-education teachers that they say will continue to support students with special needs.


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