Editor’s note: We are publishing this post after the conclusion of the LA teachers’ strike in order to share insights for members about the continuing wave of strikes, such as the current one in Denver.
As an administrator in the Speech and Language Program in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), I belong to the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the union representing administrators. I’m not a member of the union on strike—United Teachers of Los Angeles—so my role during the strike was to provide instruction and supervisory support to those students who reported to school during this time.
Schools remained open during the strike and students participated in instructional programs. Qualified LAUSD staff—including reassigned administrators like me—provided instruction. My experiences during the strike vastly differed than those of the 17 educational audiologists and 505 speech-language pathologists out striking.
It pained me to cross the picket line. My heart was with my colleagues, but my focus was on the children who came to school. I felt that I played an important role in the safety and instruction of these students by teaching a class of students with disabilities. Throughout it all, my experiences reaffirmed my respect for teachers and SLPs working with students daily.
The LAUSD serves 65,866 students with disabilities. Among them, more than 28,000 receive speech-language services, 4,300 preschool students receive integrated speech and language support in class, and 403 students receive audiology services.
One major concern for our SLPs as they return—aside from continuity of service—involved making up missed sessions. LAUSD communicated to families that schools remained open and students were expected to attend school every day and participate in instructional programs. Missed services must be provided for students who attended schools during these days. However, the district couldn’t provide services to students who did not attend and isn’t required to provide compensatory services.
I’m proud of the work our SLPs accomplished with the strike. Their passion and dedication made possible the new agreement that is a great step forward for our educators and students. I can’t imagine how exhausted they all must be after this long, hard fight. I happily welcomed them back, wishing them a smooth transition back into their school communities.
Here are the improvements educational audiologists and SLPs will receive in the new contract:
Workspace for itinerant employees: The new contract formalizes a commitment to provide appropriate school-site workspace for itinerant employees with an appeal process for requesting an alternate space.
Caseload/Workload Taskforce: The new contract creates a taskforce to make recommendations on itinerant caseloads. The taskforce meets quarterly to review caseloads/workloads, provides strategies to help staff make up missed sessions, create better approaches for classroom inclusion, and study the effects of direct versus indirect services.
Designated Instructional Services (DIS) caseload of 55 students for speech-language pathology: The contract includes lightly improved language on caseload limits, which states: if optimal caseloads are exceeded by two for a period of time which exceeds one month, a referral may be made to the Workload/Caseload Taskforce.
Commitment to increased special education funding: The parties (union and the district) will work together on a plan to increase funding for special education services and staff.
In addition to the new contract benefits, media coverage of the strike and a tremendous social media outpouring positively increased awareness for Deaf education in our schools, while the constant presence of an expressive American Sign Language interpreter at press conferences also drew the public’s attention.
Kyle Epps, MA, CCC-SLP, works for the Los Angeles Unified School District as an administrator in the Speech and Language Program. He is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues. Kyle.Epps@iCloud.com