Under Rainy Skies, Los Angeles Teachers Take To The Picket Lines

4 hours ago
Originally published on January 14, 2019 6:35 pm

As parents across Los Angeles dropped their kids off at school Monday morning, they were greeted by picket lines of teachers, many dressed in red ponchos and holding red umbrellas.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, educators in LA are on strike.

"Teachers want what students need," a crowd outside Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Boyle Heights chanted in the pouring rain.

Maria Gonzalez, a kindergarten teacher at Kingsley Elementary School in East Hollywood, says she's excited to fight for her students.
Elissa Nadworny / NPR

"Sí se puede" — yes we can — declared a crowd of educators outside Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown. In a video posted to Twitter, that same crowd stopped a school district truck from driving onto campus.

Demonstrators showed up at schools across the district with signs that read "We stand with LA educators," "Our students deserve smaller class sizes," and "On strike for our students," many of them also in Spanish.

By midmorning, educators and their supporters had converged in Grand Park, across from Los Angeles City Hall, in a sea of umbrellas, ponchos and signs. They rang cow bells, played drums and chanted in the direction of city hall. "Think we'll give up easily?" one sign read. "ASK US HOW LONG WE WAIT TO PEE."

United Teachers Los Angeles has been negotiating a new contract with the school district for nearly two years. The union's 30,000-plus members — which include teachers, librarians, nurses and more — have been working without a contract for over a year.

In a voice message to parents Sunday night, LA Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said, "We did not want a strike. We tried our best to avoid it and we will continue to work around the clock to find a solution to end the strike."

Cars honk their support for teachers as demonstrators march from Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, to a nearby intersection.
Roxanne Turpen for NPR

Elementary, middle and high schools in the country's second largest school district remain open for the nearly half a million students affected by the strike. They're staffed by administrators, volunteers and newly-hired substitutes. The district says learning will still take place and has set up a hotline for families to call with questions.

Schools will continue to serve free- or reduced-price meals to the 81 percent of district students who rely on them.

Some preschools are closed, while other early education centers in the district are only open to students with special needs.

Teacher Ed Weber brought his son Jasper, 8, with him to the picket line on Monday. "If we don't stand up now, the quality of our education will continue to be eroded," Weber says.
Roxanne Turpen for NPR

The district's teacher salary offer is close to what the union has asked for, but the strike is about more than pay for educators. Union leaders want smaller class sizes and more counselors and librarians. They're also asking for a full-time nurse in every school.

The district announced a new offer on Friday, including additional funds for smaller class sizes, but union leaders were not satisfied.

No negotiations are planned for Monday.

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