Los Angeles teachers will strike on January 10, about half a year after the teachers union declared they were at an impasse with Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD). The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday.
UTLA said teachers are asking for smaller class sizes, reductions in standardized testing, a 2 percent bonus, 6.5 percent salary increases, and a $500 stipend for materials and supplies. They’re also interested in expanding charter school accountability, creating school climate and discipline plans, and spending more money on ethnic studies and bilingual education.
Last July, the union said that it was still at loggerheads with LAUSD over these requests. Unless the district now meets many of teachers’ demands, the planned strike will be the first of its kind among L.A. teachers since a nine-day strike that took place in 1989.
Alex Caputo-Pearl, the head of the teachers union, said the district has made no movement on class sizes or what he calls “common sense regulation of charter schools,” among other key demands. Unless there are “dramatic shifts” in the district’s approach toward spending money on students, Caputo-Pearl says, there will be a work stoppage in January. The union has argued that as the school district has nearly $2 billion in its reserve fund, there are more-than-adequate funds on hand to meet its demands.
While Los Angeles teachers voted to authorize a strike in August, it took a considerable amount of time for teachers to select a strike date because they needed to go through several regulatory requirements. UTLA and LAUSD went through mediation, followed by a mandated fact-finding process over many weeks, prior to giving advance notice of their intention to strike in January
Tensions between the union and school district only increased after the release of the fact-finding report. On Tuesday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the report showed that the district and union agree on a pay increase and backpay. He said, “Los Angeles Unified’s offer of 6 percent is appropriate and UTLA has agreed that is appropriate.”
The union later released a statement calling on Beutner to immediately retract his statement and said no agreement on salary on anything else had been reached between the district and union.
“Implying that an agreement has been reached tells us he is more interested in perpetuating falsehoods than finding a real path to an agreement that respects teachers, parents, our students, and communities,” said Caputo-Pearl.
The UTLA says that parts of the report supported their demands, recommending a settlement to “involve a percentage of money to be used for the employment of teachers and other staff to reduce class size and provide additional student access to the services of librarians, nurses and other professional staff.”
The report also appeared to support greater oversight of co-location of traditional public schools and charter schools through more staff input. Traditional public school teachers are passionate about about the issue of co-location, which they say is inequitable for traditional public school students.
However, on the issue of raises, the report favored LAUSD by supporting the district’s salary offer. The district offered teachers a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2017, and another 3 percent raise as of July 1, 2018. The union has said it wants a 6.5 percent raise, retroactive to July 1, 2016.
Last weekend, thousands of teachers, community members, and students marched through downtown L.A. to show the district they were serious about demands to improve public education. They marched from City Hall to the Broad Museum.
— Paul Stephen Edwards (@infinitejester) December 15, 2018
Massive march led by UTLA December 15 in downtown Los Angeles demanding promotion of public education and end to privatization. Parents, students many groups and Centro CSO in unity with UTLA teachers!! pic.twitter.com/9EOCeVvWQV
— Carlos Montes (@cmmontes5) December 16, 2018
Teachers, parents, and the district have been preparing for the possibility of a strike for weeks, if not months. In October, several teachers told ThinkProgress that they had reached out to parents and members of the community to let them know why they had reached an impasse with the district and to gather public support for their demands.
The union decided to transfer up to $3 million from its strike fund for immediate use in September. Members of the UTLA recently escalated actions by boycotting staff meetings at schools.
LAUSD responded by filing an unfair labor charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the union. The district has produced a guide for parents to prepare for a strike and said schools would stay open and be supervised by district staff.