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Los Angeles teachers go on strike, blaming 'privatization drain' by charter schools

Picketers demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and an end to the rise of private competition

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Classes in the Los Angeles United School District were taught by substitutes Monday, as the district's more than 30,000 teachers went on strike.

Students were forced to cross picket lines to enter school buildings, as educators and their supporters held signs and marched in a fight for higher pay, smaller class sizes, and an "end to the privatization drain" caused by charter school growth.

What are the details?

The teachers are represented by the United Teachers of Los Angeles union, which has been in negotiations with the district for 21 months to resolve the issues.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told members during a news conference, "Here we are on a rainy day in the richest country in the world, in the richest state in the country, in a state that's blue as it can be — and in a city rife with millionaires — where teachers have to go on strike to get the basics for our students," KCBS-TV reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the two sides aren't too far off on their negotiations, which broke down Friday. LAUSD has offered a 6 percent raise to teachers spread over the first two years of a three-year deal, while UTLA is asking for a 6.5 percent raise all at once.

In its latest proposal, the district has also offered to staff a full-time nurse for every elementary school, a librarian at every secondary school, and an additional academic counselor for every high school. But the concessions could only be guaranteed for a year because they were being funded out of a one-time reserve, which was unacceptable to the union that is demanding a more permanent staffing solution.

What do charter schools have to do with it?

Joseph Zeccola, a 2018-19 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year, explained in an op-ed published by the Huffington Post that the major issue causing educators to strike is not pay, but resources for students. Zeccola cited the UTLA's agenda, which says the district's 287 percent growth of charter schools over the past decade has led to a drain of nearly $600 million from public schools annually.

Cheri Sanchez, whose husband is a special ed teacher, echoed that messaging while speaking to the Times from a picket line on Monday.

"Public schools are expected to support special needs students but without the resources to do so," she said. "For me, the problem is the privatization of charter schools and the large class sizes. I want smaller class sizes for my kids."

One last thing…
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