More than 50,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers, parents, and United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) members marched in front of the district’s headquarters on Monday, January 14 on day one of the strike, with their picket signs and bullhorns in hand in the rain, as they chanted, “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!”
“We need smaller class sizes so that the teachers aren’t overwhelmed and the students can actually learn something. We also need to get equal pay; everybody else got their raise but they don’t want to give it to teachers without tying in restrictions to it. We just need our justice,” said McBride Special Education Center teacher Surayyah Muhammad.
“We are doing this for our students; we need counselors, librarians, and psychologists. Right now, you have one psychologist that is at a school one day a week and that’s for the whole school. Librarians are non-existent anymore and the schools don’t have nurses.”
Another reoccurring issue that teachers discussed during week one of the strike was the topic of LAUSD funding charter schools.
“The statement we are trying to make is that we would like for the district to stop funding money to the charter schools because the funding for the charter schools takes away from public education,” said Drew Middle School teacher Patricia Egbu.
“The charter schools make all of these promises to the parents and the students and they don’t deliver; and if they’re not performing, they send them [the students] back to us. They [the charter schools] don’t accept everybody and they don’t take special ed students or the students with the bad test scores…”
Egbu goes on to explain how the teacher to student ratio affects the learning environment in the classroom.
“There’s not enough desks, sometimes we have to sit on the floor, when the ratio gets too high no possible learning can take place and then they blame the teachers for not doing their jobs.
UTLA’s decision comes after almost two years of contract negotiations with the district. The Friday before the strike was set to take place, UTLA met with LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner to discuss a bargaining proposal that he was hoping would change their minds. However, UTLA turned Beutner’s proposal down.
According to UTLA, Beutner’s proposal would, “permanently increases class sizes up to 39 in middle school, 46 in high school and would only allow increased staffing for one year, and not at all schools.”
During the first two days of the strike, Beutner took to social media to express his concerns.
“The strike won’t create the funding we need to boost teacher salaries or hire new educators. Ninety percent of the funding for our schools comes from Sacramento, the state capital, which Los Angeles can’t control,” read the Twitter post.
On day one of the strike, many parents refused to take their children to school. In fact, some parents headed to the picket lines with their children to advocate for smaller class sizes, more school nurses, counselors, and librarians as well as additional demands.
As a result of just day one of strike, LAUSD lost 15 million dollars and as the strike progressed that number increased.
“15 million dollars that would have been better spent to reduce class sizes, to higher more nurses, counselors, and librarians, 15 million dollars that we are not going to get back. So each day we should be asking ourselves why we can’t get this solved,” said Beutner in a statement.
California Governor Gavin Newsom weighed in on the matter by urging UTLA and the superintendent to reconvene until an agreement is made.
“This impasse is disrupting the lives of too many kids and their families. I strongly urge all parties to go back to the negotiating table and find an immediate path forward that puts kids back into classrooms and provides parents certainty,” read Newsom’s Twitter post.
As of press time, the LAUSD strike was wrapping up day two with no intentions to end their march toward improving the learning conditions for their students.
“This show of unity and determination sends a strong message to Beutner and the School Board that our members are determined to stay on the picket lines as long as we have to, that we are not playing games, that parents and community are behind us, that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to give our students a chance at a quality education,” said UTLA regarding the first LAUSD strike in nearly 30 years.
To find out more information about the schools on strike as well as additional resources please call the family hotline at (213)443-1300. Be sure to check out the LA Sentinel next week for exclusive strike coverage on the schools being affected in the Crenshaw area!