SACRAMENTO — Los Angeles Unified teachers and other employees with young children will receive a $500 monthly child care stipend as they return to classrooms after a year of campus closures.
Full-time employees of the second largest school district in the country will receive the monthly subsidy if they have children 5 years old and younger, the district announced Monday.
School employees, including custodians and bus drivers, will get a subsidy for each eligible child through the end of the semester and if they work over the summer. Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents classified school employees, made the ask to the district last week, proposing that a subsidy be given to teachers as well.
The agreement comes after hard-fought reopening negotiations between Los Angeles Unified and union members resulted in some of the strictest school safety protocols in the country, including stringent virus testing and guaranteed teacher vaccinations.
Los Angeles Unified next week will welcome back some of its younger students for the first time since the pandemic hit last March.
“It’s been a very long year since Covid-19 led to the closure of schools, and many of our employees have had to juggle their responsibilities at work with the need to take care of their own families, including young children,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement Monday. “We have done all we can to take care of our employees, from Hero Pay and extended medical benefits to Covid tests and vaccinations. The support for childcare is another step we’re taking to help our employees so they can keep doing all they can to serve the needs of students and their families.”
United Teachers of Los Angeles asked the district last month for child care accommodations, with a petition alleging that the district was asking teachers who are also parents to choose between “our children or our job.”
It was not immediately clear how many LAUSD employees would be eligible for the program, though UTLA has asked the district to survey educator parents to determine the level of need. LAUSD already has a child care program that teachers can use but children who are not school-age or attend a different district are not eligible.
The recent request for child care outraged some parents, including essential workers like health care and grocery workers who have not received such subsidies and have not been able to work from home like teachers overseeing distance learning this year.
Other teachers unions in California have pursued similar agreements, with many securing policies that allow them to bring their young children to work. The ask appears to be unique to California.
When asked about the Los Angeles plan by a reporter at the White House on Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki deferred to local leaders. “I would point you to the state of California and the local school districts to have those discussions,” she said.
Los Angeles Unified’s program, which could be seen as a model for other unions fighting for child care, will focus on in-home day care centers through Carina Care, which connects providers with state-funded clients.
Los Angeles Unified and unions acknowledged California’s child care crisis on Monday, saying school employees have seen local day care centers raise their rates and reduce capacity during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, the state struggled to provide enough spots to young children who qualify for subsidized care, but the coronavirus exacerbated access problems. According to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 77 percent of programs in California experienced loss of income from families in 2020 as providers struggled to keep up with Covid-19 requirements and families dropped out because they could work from home or could no longer afford care.
California teachers who often do not meet income thresholds for subsidized care but have struggled to afford child care in big cities where the cost of living has skyrocketed have long pushed for districts to offer such support for mothers and working families.
“It’s a critical first step in the reopening and recovery process,” SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said of the subsidies in a statement on Monday.