Teachers in ‘Fight for the Soul of Public Education,’ UTLA President Says on 1st Day of Strike

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On day one of the first Los Angeles Unified School District teachers’ strike in 30 years, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl spoke to teachers and students gathered on a rainy Monday in Los Feliz.

“Here we are on a rainy day in the richest country in the world, in the richest state in the country, in a state as 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,” Caputo-Pearl said.

The strike, originally scheduled to take place last Thursday, was delayed until Monday in hopes of reaching a last-minute deal.

Instead, more than 32,000 Los Angeles teachers and staff members walked off the job Monday, leaving about 600,000 students to wonder when they will see them again.

Caputo-Pearl says educators do not want to strike but are in need of reinvestment by the district into class size reduction, a fair wage for educators and increased staffing, including nurses, counselors and special education teachers.

“Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education,” Caputo-Pearl said while calling for the district to reinvest from its $1.86 billion in reserves and the millions in new money promised by the state.

The district says it wants the same things, but the two sides cannot agree on how much it should cost.

LAUSD said it “would add nearly 1,200 more educators — teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians — in schools, reducing class size in thousands of classrooms,” in its latest proposal on Friday.

Class sizes in grades four to six would be limited to 35 students, and class sizes in all middle and high school math and English classes would be limited to 39 students, the school district said.

The offer would also include a 6 percent salary increase and back pay for the 2017-2018 school year, the district said.

But Caputo-Pearl said that the offer was good for only one year and that the school district’s proposal was “woefully inadequate.”

Meanwhile, teachers were outside picketing with parents and students in the rain Monday.

One student outside Walter Reed Middle School in the North Hollywood area said smaller class sizes would help teachers.

“It’s hard to control. A lot of the teachers are struggling, and they have to send students out of the class,” he said.

Mike Finn, a teacher outside John Marshall High School in Los Feliz said he works in a composition class with 46 kids and an American literature class with 45 students.

He also said he has colleagues teaching 39 fourth graders in one room. “That’s not acceptable,” Finn said.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has said a neutral fact finder found that if the district met all of the teachers demands, LAUSD would be bankrupt in two to three years.

“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. This includes its entire, existing $1.8 billion reserve,” LAUSD said.

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