Yesterday, Los Angeles (LA) teachers went on strike, for the first time in 30 years, to protest class sizes, the lack of librarians, nurses, and counselors, and disagreements over pay raises with LA district leaders. Contract negotiations between the union, LA United Teachers, and the district began in early 2017 without significant progress. As LA is the second largest school district in the United States, about 480,000 schools have been affected.
Roughly 50,000 teachers gathered at City Hall yesterday to march to the LA school district headquarters on the first day of the strike. Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke to the crowd at City Hall, stating that he was “immensely proud of Los Angeles’ teachers today for standing up for what I believe is a righteous cause.” He continued to say that he believes that “lower class size” and “support staff to keep our children healthy, to keep them counseled well for their college and their careers” is a “righteous cause.”
The main point of contention between the school district and the teachers’ union is debate over the amount of money the district has to spend to meet the teachers’ demands. The district argues that they do not have enough money to afford meeting all of the demands the teachers are requiring. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom released a proposed budget that includes more public education funding. While the district proposed an additional $130 million dollars to reduce class sizes, guaranteed librarians at every middle school and high school, an additional counselor in high schools, and the county offered an extra $10 million dollars for mental health services, these guarantees would only last one year. The union has denied this proposal.
Mayor Garcetti said that it, “gives him more energy for making sure we can get a just, fair, and responsible contract for our teachers and get teachers and students back to school, back to the classroom where they belong.” As of today, the teachers will continue to strike.
2018 saw a wave of teacher strikes across the country from Chicago, to Arizona, to West Virginia, to Oklahoma. Teachers are demanding higher pay, more resources, and smaller class sizes.
According to he US Department of Education, more than 75% of public school teachers are women, which according to many women’s rights activists, contributes to the fact that teachers are undervalued and underpaid across the country.
Media Resources: NPR 1/15/19; LA Times 1/14/19