Los Angeles Teachers Striking for Smaller Class Sizes and Fair Pay
On Monday, Jan. 14, over 30,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) walked out on strike, taking to the streets in a driving rainstorm. The strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) comes after their 21 month-long contract negotiation reached an impasse.
The education workers are demanding:
- Reasonable class sizes,
- An instant 6.5 percent pay increase,
- More nurses, librarians, psychiatrists and counselors to fully staff all district schools,
- Limits on funding to charter schools (a form of education privatization – turning schools into profit making and driven entities).
UTLA’s strike primarily centers around out of control class sizes in the district. LAUSD, the second largest school district in the country, serves approximately 640,000 students in an area that stretches beyond the limits of Los Angeles proper. Class sizes in the district regularly are as high as 39 in elementary and middle schools, and 46 in high schools.
“The conditions are not allowing us to get the best results from our students,” social studies teacher Martha Infante-Thorpe told Vice News Tonight. “We know what conditions we need, because we’re in the classroom every single day. So I know that when I’m teaching a class of 40-plus students, I’m not the most effective teacher.”
The workers’ fight against increased funding for charter schools mirrors postal workers’ struggles to stop privatization of postal services; both working to preserve the public good.
LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner refused to negotiate in good faith through three days of strikes. He claims that UTLA’s demands would bankrupt the district. But LAUSD has approximately $1.8 billion dollars in reserves.
LAUSD finally came to the bargaining table at Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday evening, but UTLA’s demands remain unmet as of this morning (Jan. 18). The union expects the strike to continue through the weekend and into the upcoming week.
The strike takes inspiration from last year’s history-making public-school teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona last year. From that strike educators emerged as leaders in a refreshed movement for fair salaries and better funding for public services – going up against deep-pocketed privatization advocates like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who use charters as a way to turn the public good of education into profit-making entities.
“The APWU stands in solidarity with the educators of the UTLA,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “Education is a public right, not a private privilege, and we offer our support to UTLA as they fight for the conditions they know their students need to succeed.”
Nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles County residents support the strike, which also has overwhelming support from parents, 10,000 of whom joined the strike on Monday in the rainstorm.
APWU members are encouraged visit picket lines (if in the area) and donate to the strike funds (which are being used to feed the schoolchildren breakfast and lunch during the strike). Members can also print and take pictures holding a ‘We Stand With LA Teachers’ window sign, and share it on social media with the hashtag #UTLAstrong and #APWUnited.