Los Angeles teachers begin strike seeking greater investment in schools

Tens of thousands of teachers took part in a rally as thousands more participated in pickets, demanding smaller class sizes, more recruitment and the strengthening of local school leadership councils

January 15, 2019 by Muhammed Shabeer

The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) went on strike on January 14, demanding the redressal of their long-pending grievances. On Monday morning, despite the rain, thousands of teachers, clad in red T-shirts and carrying placards saying “On strike for our students”, gathered near the city hall and marched to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) headquarters.

USA Today reported that the teachers chanted slogans like “Education is a right! That is why we have to fight!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! We’re fighting to keep class size low!” According to reports, there were picket lines at almost 900 schools across the city. The UTLA said that more than 27,000 members took part in pickets on the first morning of the strike. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have participated in the rally. UTLA also gave a call to the teachers to rally at the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) on Tuesday after the morning pickets on the second day of the strike.

In support of the strike, various hashtags began trending in social media, including #RedforEd, #WeAreLA, #UTLAStrong, #StrikeReady, #Wearepublicschools, #StopStarvingOurPublicSchools,  #allin4respect, among others.

The teachers are demanding that the LAUSD use 1.9 billion USD in the unrestricted reserves to implement smaller class sizes and hire more nurses, counselors and librarians. The teachers have also sought more support for special education, early education, bilingual education and adult education. Other demands include an end to the overtesting of students and ensuring the empowerment of parents and teachers in the education process through strengthening Local School Leadership Councils.

The strike was earlier scheduled for January 10 but was postponed to January 14. The teachers accused the LAUSD authorities of bad faith after the nearly 20 months of negotiations on these demands turned out to be unfruitful. The LAUSD serves 640,000 students and is the second biggest school district in the country.

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl told the media, “Here, we are in a fight for the soul of public education… The question is: Do we starve our public neighborhood schools so that they are cut and privatized, or do we reinvest in our public neighborhood schools for our students and for a thriving city?” He added “Let’s be clear. Educators do not want to strike but they felt they now had to in order to fight for the proposals they were demanding for their students. California should be leading not languishing.”

UTLA reported receiving messages of solidarity from students, educators, parents and other trade unions in support of their demands. “The strike will continue till LAUSD engage with our proposals. We are prepared to strike for as long as necessary to get LAUSD spend their USD 1.9 billion in reserves on our schools,” they said.

Commenting on the strike, Eric A. Gordon wrote in People’s World that “The single most relevant factor that drags education down into the muck of poorly performing mediocrity is the short-sighted movement to lower taxes and revenue from the one percent. Without mentioning the bottomed-out state support for education, the right-wing then points to government for ‘our failing schools.’ Since many of our urban school systems are heavily populated by racial minorities, there is an obvious racist tinge to such accusations. Progressive political rejuvenation at every level of government is required to turn back corporate power.”