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32,000 Los Angeles teachers split from their typical routines on Monday, trading campus hallways and classrooms for sidewalks and public streets. In a massive strike, educators demanded pay raises and improved labor conditions for not only themselves, but the more than 500,000 children they teach daily.
According to reports from CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and a bevy of national news outlets, Los Angeles’ public school teachers began the work stoppage on Monday, after months of contract negotiations with the LA Unified School District stalled at an impasse.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the striking workers, has demanded that the District increase educator pay by 6.5%, hire more teachers to reduce classroom sizes, and increase school support staff like librarians and nurses.
"It's absolutely not the pay raise. It's about class size reduction. In other words, hire more teachers," Andrea Cohen, who has taught in the district for 24 years, told CNN. "We want to have fully staffed schools. That means librarians, nurses, psychiatric social workers, and their interns. We have 46, 45, 50 students in a class. It's unacceptable."
To facilitate those demands, union leaders have called on the district to spend $1.8 billion in organizational savings; a reserve fund that District officials say is already being spent elsewhere.
"School budgets in California are set in three-year increments, and from July 2018 to June 2021, Los Angeles Unified will spend $24 billion educating students,” LAUSD said, according to CNN. “This includes its entire, existing $1.8 billion reserve."
The District has offered to cap classroom sizes below 40 students and increase teacher pay by 6%, but with national classroom averages somewhere between 16 and 28 students, LA teachers say that the District’s proposal is still not enough.
"I think what you're seeing is people want to make conditions better for children and for themselves," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told CNN. "People have tried to talk to legislators or talk to their bosses... they've gotten dismissed or disparaged."
Despite a lack of educators inside campus walls, LA Unified schools remained open Monday, with any remaining administrators and hired substitutes crossing the picket line to oversee students in auditoriums, gymnasiums, and cafeterias. Many parents kept their children home, either in support of the striking teachers, or due to fears of a lack of supervision.
The LA teachers strike is set to continue today, and could go on for weeks or months, with no new negotiations yet scheduled.
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