The Los Angeles teachers' strike entered its third day on Wednesday, with over 30,000 educators from public and charter schools alike taking to the streets to demand changes to the city's education system. Here's what's going on with the Los Angeles teachers' strike, and why it has consumed the country's second-largest school district.
About half a million children are enrolled in Los Angeles County public schools, according to the Huffington Post. The Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles negotiated for 21 months in the hopes of staving off a strike, to no avail. The teachers are demanding smaller class sizes, more support staff, and higher wages; the LAUSD offered to partially meet some of these demands before the strike, but UTLA leader Alex Caputo-Pearl called the district's offers "woefully inadequate," and the strike kicked off on Monday.
Specifically, the UTLA is asking for a 6.5 percent salary increase for its members, retroactive to the 2016-2017 school year; a limit on class sizes, which in some cases exceed 45 students; less standardized testing; and more funding for school support staff such as counselors, nurses, and librarians, according to USA Today. The union says that the district has $1.86 billion in reserves that it could use to fund these measures, and is asking it to do so; however, the district says this money is already allocated to other services, CNN reports.
The UTLA is also demanding an "immediate cap" on charter schools in the county, Caputo-Pearl announced before the strike. Charter schools have exploded in growth in Los Angeles over the last several years, Forbes reports, with enrollment in them increasing more than 35 percent since the 2012-2013 school year. Striking teachers say that whenever a student transfers to a charter school, they take with them the per-student funding that would have otherwise went to a public school, according to the Huffington Post.
But the school district doesn't have the authority to directly cap charter school growth, and any such decision would have to be made by state and local governments. Caputo-Pearl acknowledged this, saying at a press conference in December that the union's demands regarding charter schools are "a call on civic leaders to enact" policies restricting charter school growth.
Incidentally, some teachers from charter schools have joined the protests, although they're not part of UTLA and, as such, are not technically part of that union's larger strike. Teachers from the Accelerated Schools, a network of charter schools in the county, are demanding binding arbitration and health benefits; according to the Press-Enterprise, this is the first time charter school employees have joined a teacher's strike in Los Angeles.
The strike has been supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several other prominent progressive Democrats. It's unclear when and how it will end, but in the meantime, the district is keeping its schools open during the strikes: According to USA Today, around 400 substitutes, plus 2,000 credential staff who aren't currently teachers, have been carrying out teaching duties since the strike began.