This week, in classrooms all over the country, kids showed up to school and were greeted by beloved teachers, aides, support staff, and administrators. They sat at desks and did coursework, visited the library to check out books, and engaged in lively discussions and lessons on everything from math to social studies. Most schools have been back in session for a couple of weeks now, picking up where they left off before the holidays.
But in Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country with over 730,000 students enrolled in grades K-12, it was not business as usual. On a rainy Monday morning, 30,000 LAUSD teachers went on strike across LA and surrounding cities. The strike, the first in the district in 30 years, came after 20 months of failed negotiations between the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and the district over pay, resources, classroom size, and student support.
So on Monday January 14, instead of heading into school, thousands upon thousands of students hit the streets to strike with their teachers, or stayed home and hoped for a swift resolution.
As of Friday January 18, the strike continued, with no agreement reached between the UTLA and LAUSD. Teachers in the district have been working for 20 months without a contract, as their union and the district struggled to come to terms. At stake is the future of thousands of students in hundreds of schools. Yes, teachers are striking for higher pay - a fight that teachers all over the country are all too familiar with. But LAUSD teachers are fighting for so much more.
Teachers on strike told ABC News that only 15% of schools in the district have a full-time nurse. Many schools don't have full-time librarians, so kids can't check out books at their own school libraries. Classrooms are packed beyond reason, with as many as 450-50 students in one class. Teachers maintain that they cannot do their jobs under these circumstances, and are willing to strike until their demands are met.
Don't diminish the strike by saying it's just for better pay. LAUSD teachers also want reductions in standardized testing, lower class sizes, an increase in support staff, and more to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of all students. #LAUSDStrike #RedForEd— Manuel Rustin (@Rustin3000) January 14, 2019
By and large, LAUSD teachers have the full support of their students, parents, and the community, even as it puts a burdens on families to find childcare while their children are out of school. Schools remain open - rather than close them, superintendent Austin Beutner hired scabs to essentially babysit kids who did not stay home. However, only one-third of students showed up this week, costing the district an estimated $25 million in funding.
@AustinLASchools makes $350,000K a year and gets a company car. Maybe start the lowering his salary and hire a nurse or two or three!— Tracey roberts (@traceywroberts) January 15, 2019
Negotiations continue between the district and UTLA, but it's being reported that Beutner did not show up for negotiations on Friday, and has not been involved in negotiations consistently since the strike began. Teachers are asking for a 6.5% raise retroactive to 2017, in addition to caps on classroom sizes, and resources for school support staff. Negotiations continue through the weekend, but if an agreement isn't reached, the strike will resume on Monday.