The country's second-largest school system was shut down when the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) began their first strike in 30 years.
Over 30,000 teachers are on strike and nearly 500,000 students at 900 schools are affected. Schools remain open staffed by substitutes that the city has hired.
The UTLA strike is one in a long line of what Brad Marianno, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada calls the “year of teacher unrest.” Teachers went on statewide strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona.
As reported in The Nation, teachers are demanding better salaries and benefits, a lower class size (as the average class size in the district has reached 42 students), more counselors and nurses, and a moratorium on the authorization of charter schools, which teachers fear siphon money away from public schools.
The strike comes after a decade of cuts that have resulted in a loss of school nurses, counselors, and social workers because The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrators endeavored to defund and privatize many of the schools in the district.
California is a progressive state in issues such as climate change, health care, and immigration, but it lags behind on educational issues. On the list of states ranked by spending for education, California ranks near the end. The state has the world’s fifth largest economy- with Silicon Valley, agriculture, and the film industry to cement their standing. Yet, their public schools continue to suffer.
The UTLA maintains that the funds are available to meet their demands, but several reports have suggested that the LAUSD has a serious structural deficit, and it is spending much more than it takes in. No strike can fix that problem.
Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association, an affiliate of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), told Salon that when schools are underfunded, teachers suffer.
Garcia said, “I have heard from some teachers buying their own supplies, saying ‘I go down to Costco to get breakfast bars because I have too many kids who show up to school hungry.’”
Here's what you can do to support teachers in LA: