LAUSD teachers strike for first time since 1989.
By Sam Catanzaro
Los Angeles public school teachers, including many in and near Brentwood, are now on their fourth day of striking, affecting nearly 500,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students.
This strike, the first in Los Angeles since 1989, comes after over a year of contract negotiations between the district and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing public school teachers in the city.
Schools on the Westside impacted by the strike include University High School Charter, Brentwood Elementary Science Magnet, Kenter Canyon Elementary, Paul Revere Charter Middle School, Westwood Charter Elementary, Emerson Community Charter, Fairburn Avenue Elementary, Warner Avenue Elementary Venice High School, Broadway Elementary School, Westminster Elementary School, Walgrove Avenue Elementary School and Beethoven Street Elementary School.
The district has offered teachers a 6 percent raise with back pay going back to July 2016. Teachers are hoping for a 6.5 percent raise, but teacher pay is not the center of the conflict.
At the core of the debate between these two sides is the question of how much money LAUSD has to spend. The union, which has over 30,000 members, wants the district to dip into its $2 billion rainy day fund to pay for smaller class sizes, more nurses and counselors, among other demands.
“To be hoarding $2 billion in a school district that is more low income and more of color than just about any in the nation is a practice that must be challenged based on racial justice grounds,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pear.
Austin Beutner, LAUSD Superintendent, however, says that UTLA is mischaracterizing the situation, stating that the district is spending all the funds it can.
“The notion that we are hoarding reserves, the notion that more money exists somewhere else in which to do more is not accurate. We are spending all we have in service of our schools,” Beutner said.
The two Los Angeles city council members who represent the Westside, Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, both issued statements this week expressing their support for teachers.
“Teachers are demanding smaller class sizes, better school resources and improved wages, and I stopped by Walgrove Avenue Elementary School and Venice High School this morning to join parents, students, and neighbors in showing solidarity with our educators. Hoping this strike is brief and successful,” Bonin said in a Facebook post.
Koretz echoed this sediment in a Facebook live video from Downtown Los Angeles where tens of thousands of UTLA teachers were holding a rally.
“We know that we need to fund our schools better. We know that we need smaller class sizes, we know we need nurses, guidance counselors, [and] so many things, and we know that there is no way to make this happen without this effort so we support our teachers, we support our students, hopefully, this will be over soon and the teachers and students will get what they need,” Koretz said.
Schools are remaining open for regular hours during the strike and before-and-after-school programs will continue as well. In addition, the 81 percent of LAUSD students who rely on free or reduced meals from the district will continue to be served.
According to the district, students who attend school during the strike will receive instruction from “qualified L.A. Unified staff” such as administrators. In addition, the district has hired 400 substitute teachers to stand in for full-time teachers, something UTLA has taken issue with.
“[It’s] irresponsible to think that 400 substitutes can educate more than 600,000 students,” UTLA said in a statement, adding “it is illegal for the district to hire people outside our bargaining unit to teach in LAUSD classrooms.”