LAUSD Teachers Are Officially On Strike
Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District initiated a strike early Monday morning, a work stoppage that affects roughly 480,000 public school students and their parents.
Teachers, parents and students are expected to begin picketing at schools across the district at about 7 a.m., kicking off the first teachers strike since 1989.
"Here we are, in a fight for the soul of public education," UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl told the crowd during a rainy rally outside John Marshall High School in Los Feliz. Picket lines have formed at 900 schools throughout the city, he said.
After a few hours of picketing, union members and supporters gathered at Grand Park in downtown L.A. before a planned march to LAUSD headquarters several blocks away.
In a press conference late Monday morning, LAUSD Superintentent Austin Beutner noted it was "not a normal school day," but said all 1,240 of the district's K-12 schools are open and "students are safe and learning."
"We remain committed to resolve the contract negotiations as soon as possible," Beutner said. "We urge [UTLA] to resume bargaining with us anytime, anywhere."
Beutner also said the district was in discussions with Gov. Gavin Newsom, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
Contract talks that had been going on for about a year and a half stalled back in July. An overwhelming majority of UTLA's rank-and-file approved a strike during a union-wide vote back in September. Almost every day since, the already tattered relationship between UTLA leaders — who represent more than 30,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, social workers and counselors — and LAUSD leadership has frayed a little more.
Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles announced in mid-December that their members would walk off the job in the coming days unless they reach an agreement on a new contract with LAUSD. Union leaders recently moved to delay the strike to Jan. 14 — and a judge recently ruled that date can stand.
Talks broke down Friday, when the union rejected the district's latest offer.
The strike is also having an impact on some city departments' operations and staff, including police and library services.
In an interview Monday with KPCC's Take Two, Mayor Garcetti said all Department of Recreation and Parks centers would be open and staffed up for students and library hours would be extended for after-school programs.That staffing up means overtime for department employees.
The mayor has also "deployed serious police resources" to address safety concerns for LAUSD students. Garcetti said the police staffing changes won't affect investigations into violent and serious crimes, but there will be "less follow up" and "not-as-quick callbacks" regarding property crimes.
With a strike beginning today affecting LAUSD schools, we're making sure families have additional options for their kids by offering free rides on @LADOTofficial and @MetroLosAngeles along with resources at select @LACity recreation centers — and more. https://t.co/9gJ7QAD7qJ— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 14, 2019
The mayor, who has no authority over the school district, said teachers were fighting "righteous fights" and encouraged the two sides to come to a resolution — and soon. Garcetti also said he had spoken to Gov. Newsom about getting money from the state budget for early education, along with health and mental health needs teachers are asking for.
30,000 #LAUSD teachers will go on strike today - the first time in 30 years. 600,000 students across hundreds of campuses will be affected. @UTLAnow says picketing starts at 7:30AM. I'll be out at schools and drop-off centers this morning covering what's happening. @KPCC @LAist— Emily Elena Dugdale (@eedugdale) January 14, 2019
But now there's a picket line. Teachers and psychologists from the elementary school and early learning center are on strike for smaller class sizes, increased pay, more mental health services + #LAUSDStrike pic.twitter.com/JN2B08EGcC— Priska Neely (@priskaneely) January 14, 2019
The district announced that its 80-plus early learning centers won't be accepting students "for the safety of our students and to adhere to licensing requirements," though students in a special needs program can attend for half the day.
"We're looking to increase the amount of mental health funding we can provide to all of our students and families because in the long term what it does is to also help their learning in the classroom."— Priska Neely (@priskaneely) January 14, 2019
- School psychologist Cathy Schaefer #LAUSDStrike pic.twitter.com/yZfL1GhmCa
Michelle Levin, a striking @UTLAnow member & science teacher at @LASchools' Daniel Webster Middle School, doesn't just have a picket sign...— Kyle Stokes (@kystokes) January 14, 2019
"This is my picket umbrella," covered all over in Supt. Austin Beutner's phone number. Everyone prepped for rain. #UTLAStrike #LAUSDStrike pic.twitter.com/q6HEUh4XyP
Armed with signs, ponchos and umbrellas, UTLA members and supporters started filling up Grand Park ahead of the planned march.
At Reseda Charter High, roughly half of the school's 1,500 students showed up. Principal Melanie Welsh was using some of the time for things she'd normally have to pull students out of class for, like college prep work and English tests for juniors.
"We shouldn't be rejoicing because a lot of us have important classes... but overall, the teachers are doing this for us," senior Kevin Castillo said.
There are maybe 70-80 adults on campus right now caring for & supervising around 600 students. Adults are tying to pack every second full of whatever education they can ... but there are also a lot of students' phones out. #UTLAStrike #LAUSDstrike pic.twitter.com/Y3zy0om6Rf— Kyle Stokes (@kystokes) January 14, 2019
2:10 p.m.: This article was updated with reporting from Reseda Charter High School.
12:31 p.m.: This article was updated with information from an interview with Mayor Eric Garcetti.
10:45 a.m.: This article was updated with information from an LAUSD press conference.
9:17 a.m.: This article was updated with tweets from LAist reporters.
8:25 a.m.: This article was updated with information and quotes from the UTLA rally in Los Feliz.
This article was originally published at 6:45 a.m.