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30,000 LA Teachers Strike

With 46 kids per classroom and a no show superintendent, no picket lines were crossed

Brian Young's picture
Jan 14, 2019

Facing a driving rain, teachers in Los Angeles arrived at school this morning prepared to make history. Instead of entering into their buildings and classrooms, the union educators set up picket lines and announced that they were going on strike for the first time in over 30 years.

The 30,000 teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district are on strike because the district’s superintendent Austin Beutner is refusing to take part in real negotiations with the union. One example is the districts refusal to address class sizes. According to the union on Friday, with a strike that would affect 500,000 students looming, Beutner offered a proposal that would permanently increase the cap on class size to 39 students for middle school and 46 for high school and the district wants the ability to unilaterally raise the cap even higher. According to data from the LA school district, the average high school class has 42 students in it so this would mean an increase in class size, the opposite of what the union wants.

Some of the reasons that the union was forced to go on strike include the districts refusal to increase pay unless there is a cut to healthcare, their insistence on being allowed to unilaterally increase caseloads for special education teachers, the districts continued neglect of bilingual, adult, and early education, and their refusal to hire more teachers and support staff. Beutner has claimed that the district doesn’t have enough money to pay for lower class sizes or increased staffing, yet the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has a surplus of $1.86 billion.

In a statement, the United Teachers of LA (UTLA) said that even with a strike deadline of Sunday night, Bertner no-showed two of the three bargaining sessions last week, all but assuring that a deal was not going to get done. This was after he had told reporters he was willing to negotiate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“The pattern of disrespect and insulting proposals is what we have come to expect from Beutner. Our students deserve more. Our educators deserve more, the city of LA deserves more, public education deserves more. We have not come this far to settle for so little,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. "Let's be clear, educators do not want to strike. 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?

UTLA teachers were joined on the picket lines and in the rain by a number of different LA unions. At 10 schools, support staff like teachers’ aides, cafeteria workers, and janitors voted to go on strike as well, instead of crossing the teacher's picket lines. They are represented by SEIU Local 99. At the other schools in the district, Local 99 has instructed their members to be UTLA’s eyes behind the scenes. LAUSD hired 400 scabs and has placed another 2,000 district staff members in local schools so that they can be kept open during the strike. Local 99 members will be on the lookout to ensure that there are qualified staff members supervising all children. Teacher aides, for example, shouldn’t be left alone with students, and a single credentialed teacher supervising multiple rooms “is not acceptable,” said Max Arias, President of Local 99.

Like other teacher strikes in West Virginia and Arizona, UTLA is asking parents and students to join them on the picket line to let the district know that the strike is about protecting their students.

With California falling behind in funding their schools, they are currently ranked 41st in the nation even though the state has a $9 billion surplus, some experts say that like the West Virginia strike the anger among teachers could spread to neighboring districts.

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