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MORE than 30,000 striking teachers flooded the rainy streets of downtown Los Angeles on Monday demanding the city properly invest in its educators and schools.
The strike, organised by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union, is the first time teachers have walked out the classroom in LA since 1989.
The teachers, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action last year, are calling on the Los Angeles County School District to use its $1.8 billion (£1.4bn) surplus to fund more libraries, counsellors and nurses for school campuses, decrease class sizes and the number of student exams, halt the creeping privatisation of education and increase teacher pay by 6.5 per cent.
“I want to speak to the billionaires,” UTLA president Alex Caputo said when addressing the strikers on Monday.
“We’re not going the way of New Orleans, where you privatised and closed every single public school in that city. Public education is not your plaything. It belongs to the people of LA.”
Talks between the teachers and the education authority broke down on Friday. The union said it was “insulted” by the district’s “woefully inadequate” offer: a 6 per cent pay rise tied to healthcare cuts and no mention of school sizes.
LA County School District, the second-largest school authority in the US, says the teachers’ demands are unaffordable. However, the union points out: “California is the richest state in the nation yet ranks 43 out of 50 in per pupil spending.”
About 640,000 students in 900 schools were affected by the strike. The city hired 400 substitute/scab teachers and shoved 2,000 administrators into the schools to help teach.
Hundreds of students took to social media to express their support for the strike.
Mia Medina, a senior at John F Kennedy High School, told reporters how her principal reacted to the students’ support of the teachers. “This morning I decided to say: ‘Teachers, we support you.’
“My principal came up to me afterwards and said: ‘Who told you to say that?’ And I said ‘nobody. I said that because I support them.’ And then he said: ‘OK, then I don’t want you to do the morning announcements any more’.”
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