Over 30,000 LA Teachers Are On Strike For Better Classroom Conditions

Over 30,000 L.A. Teachers Are Now On Strike

Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike
Image via Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

The striking teachers in Los Angeles are demanding better pay, class sizes smaller than 40, and more nurses and counselors available for students

On a rainy Monday morning, over 30,000 teachers walked out their their classrooms in Los Angeles on strike, taking to the streets with posters and umbrellas, to protest worsening school conditions. This morning, they continued to strike.

“On Strike for Our Students,” many of the posters said.

The strike, which is the first in the district in 30 years, was organized by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which are currently in the 20th month of failed negotiations with the Los Angeles school district. UTLA is demanding a pay raise for strained teachers, smaller classrooms, more school staffers, and more money for school buildings and supplies.

Tens of thousands of teachers strike in Los Angeles

Aerial footage shows massive teacher strike as tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers walk out in what the union president says is a “fight for the soul of public education.” https://abcn.ws/2FCpobN

Posted by ABC News on Monday, January 14, 2019

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl spoke during the protest rally outside of John Marshall High School on Monday to a huge — and loud — crowd.

“So here we are on a rainy day in the richest country in the world, in the richest state in the country, in a state as blue as it can be, in a city rife with millionaires, where teachers have to go on strike to get the basics for our students,” he said.

Image via FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Caputo-Pearl, a Los Angeles teacher for 22 years, roused the crowd by speaking about why they weren’t in the classroom that day.

“Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education,” he said. “The question is, do we starve our public neighborhood schools so that they are cut and privatized or do we reinvest in our public neighborhood schools for our students and for a thriving city? We are here to say from the picket lines of Los Angeles that we choose reinvestment.”

Last year, Austin Beutner became the district’s superintendent, despite his history as an investment banker and politician, and no experience as an educator. Instead of closing schools on Monday, he hired hundreds of substitute teachers to break the lines and look after kids who didn’t stay home.

Currently, the district is offering a 6 percent pay raise for two years, 1,200 added nurses and counselors, and classrooms capped at 32 to 39 students, depending on grade and subject. The teachers are demanding a 6.5 percent raise retroactive to 2017 and that won’t have to be renegotiated in just a year.

Teachers on strike told ABC News that 85 percent of LA schools don’t have full-time school nurses, while one remarked that her daughter is in a math class with 46 students – far too many for any individualized attention.

Image FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

As Day two of the strike began this morning, Beutner said that the district lost an estimated $25 million this week because only one-third of the kids showed up for school. He reportedly didn’t even attend negotiations on Friday, and has not been showing up to the bargaining table consistently.

Beutner says the district doesn’t have money for the teacher’s demands, saying that most of the school’s funding comes from Sacramento, the state’s capital.

But the teachers say differently, pointing out that the district has a huge reserve of cash, and that administrators are getting treated well while many schools go without librarians and have crumbling buildings. They also worry that too much is being invested in charter schools and privatization.

The teachers stress that although striking is hurting kids and the district in the very short term, they’re striking to help the students in the long term.

Caputo-Pearl said he and the teachers are “prepared to go as long as it takes” in order to get the teachers the resources they need to give their students the education they deserve.