As LA Teachers Reach A Deal, Denver Authorizes A Strike And Oakland Schedules A Vote

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'They're striking for Denver students'

Teachers in Colorado's largest school district voted Tuesday to authorize a strike after more than a year of negotiations. But the strike will not begin Monday, as planned. Here's why. The district asked the Department of Labor and Employment to step in and mediate. The intervention could delay a strike for up to 180 days. In a statement, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association said they were "disappointed in the District's decision to involve a third party to delay our strike rather than negotiating in good faith with educators in Denver." Teachers and their supporters came out in numbers to a district board of education meeting on Thursday, chanting and marching outside before pleading with board members and the superintendent not to have the state intervene, as Colorado Public Radio's Jenny Brundin reported.

The main issue is teacher pay. The union wants higher base salaries, more opportunities for raises, and less reliance on an incentive system that rewards teachers who work in high-poverty schools or whose students score well on tests. The district says these incentives help attract and retain teachers in schools that are otherwise hard to staff.

Until the strike can legally start, teachers are expected to report to work as normal.

Los Angeles teacher: 'Everybody got something'

A six-day strike by Los Angeles teachers ended this week after 81 percent of voting union members approved a deal with the city's school district. The strike began on Jan. 14 after two years of negotiations and over a year of working without a contract. The union pushed for reduced class sizes and more nurses, counselors, and librarians in schools. The tentative agreement, approved on Tuesday, includes a lot of what teachers were asking for, but some think the deal didn't go far enough. Others were relieved to have reached a deal.

"Nobody got everything, but everybody got something," Jennifer Liebe-Zelazny, a fourth-grade teacher at Alta Loma Elementary School, told NPR.

Oakland teachers set strike vote for Jan. 29

Meanwhile in Northern California, the Oakland Education Association called for a strike authorization vote to begin Jan. 29. Union members will have four days to vote. The union, which represents around 2,300 teachers throughout the Oakland Unified School District, has been without a contract since July 2017.

The union wants smaller class sizes, more school nurses and counselors, and a 12 percent raise over the next three years. The district has offered a 5 percent raise.

A hearing by a state-appointed mediator is scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. After the hearing, the union can legally strike.

This would be Oakland's first strike in about 8 years. Teachers walked out for one day in 2010, and for 26 days in 1996.

New charter CEO updates policies: 'We always have to evolve.'

Students who pushed for change at Chicago's largest charter network are celebrating this week after their new CEO did away with policies that some felt were unfair.

Noble Network of Charter School's student handbook outlines a dress code that allows hair to be colored "only in a natural human hair color" with no visible tattoos or body piercings. It also includes a policy that allows students in the hallway during class time only when they are escorted by a staff member.

Students 4 Change, a group made up of students from across the 17-school network, spoke at board meetings and helped organize feedback sessions with parents and administrators last fall.

In a letter to parents, the network's new CEO, Constance Jones, announced a change that would allow students and staff to show tattoos, wear piercings, and choose their hairstyles freely, as long as they did not promote drug use, violence, or vulgarity. The new dress code went into effect this week. In solidarity with students and staff, Jones visited several of the network's campuses Tuesday with her own hair dyed purple.

She told NPR that starting next fall, the student escort policy will be updated so that it no longer includes student trips to the bathroom. Students 4 Change said escorts to the bathroom were "unfair and unnecessary."

Jones, who is Noble's first African-American and female CEO, says the changes are part of an effort to more closely align the network's policies with its values. Jones said that the network will always be "laser-focused" on its mission to empower students to succeed in college and in life. But when it comes to updating policies, "we always have to evolve," she told NPR.

The Noble network, which began in 1999, serves 12,000 students across Chicago. Almost 98 percent of students are of color.

Kevin Durant steps into the after school arena

A new, after school facility opened in Prince George's County, Md., this week. And the Durant Center bears the name of a Maryland native: Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. So far, the facility has 69 students and plans to offer academic and financial help, social-emotional services, and college and career advice.

The Durant Center is a partnership with College Track, an organization that uses a 10-year plan to help teens through grade school and college. Durant has already pledged $10 million to College Track.

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