Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers remain on the picket lines as part of the first strike in the district in 30 years, with educators asking for increased pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians.
On Tuesday, teachers at The Accelerated Schools charter school in South Los Angeles joined the strike, also calling for increased salaries and health benefits in order to bolster teacher retention. The strike is billed as the first ever in California by charter-school teachers.
Only about one-third of students at strike-affected LAUSD campuses attended classes on the first day of the strike, according to district officials. The district serves nearly a half-million students and about 142,000 were on campuses Monday costing the district $25 million in state funding based on attendance, Los Angeles schools Superintendent Austin Beutner said. According to the district, students are still expected to attend classes, and that a strike does not constitute a valid excuse to miss school. But students who have good attendance are not likely to suffer consequences.
“An attendance requirement to graduate is not part of the district’s policy, and student absences during work stoppage will not impact graduation,” said Pia Escudero, executive director of student health and human services for the LAUSD. .
All 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools remain open during the strike, thanks in part to substitute teachers and credentialed school staffers, Beutner said. Bus service was operating normally, and meals were being served to students as usual.
Negotiations between the union United Teachers Los Angeles and the LAUSD began in early 2017, and union members have been working without a contract for more than a year. The district increased its contract offer on Friday when Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his state budget proposal which includes more money for school districts across the state. The offer also includes, among other things, reducing class sizes in middle schools, a full-time nurse at every elementary school and another academic counselor at high schools. The increased staffing would only be for one year, with the district saying the money to pay for the extra employees would come out of a one-time reserve.
UTLA rejected the offer, saying it did not go far enough to bolster school staffing and limit potential class-size increases. The union also says the district’s salary increase proposal is contingent on benefit cuts to future union members.
Underlying the strike is the issue of charter schools. Union officials have accused Beutner and some members of the school board of favoring a vast expansion of privately operated charter schools, which are governed by the state and generally staffed by non-union teachers.
“Even with $1.86 billion [in] reserves, LAUSD says it does not have the money to improve our schools to include lower class sizes, accountability for charter schools and a real reinvestment in school safety, vital staffing and educational programs. Since 2008, the cost of living in L.A. has increased 27 percent yet the district offers stagnant wages and healthcare,” the union said in a news release.