On Jan. 14, the Los Angeles Unified School District had its first strike in 30 years, as roughly 34,000 teachers and staff members embarked the march alongside parents and students to demand reform in public education.
The LA's teachers union used the walkout as a tactic to fight for improvements to public education. These demands include a decrease in the number of students in the classroom, reductions in standardized testing, a 6.5 percent salary increase, increased support staff such as nurses, librarians, and academic counselors, and a cap on charter school funding.
The union believes catering towards charter schools has bled state funds from public schools.
After numerous failed negotiations between school district officials and union leaders since spring 2017, LAUSD's strike was inevitable. Each of the union’s demands cost money that the district claims it does not have, but the union believes otherwise. Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times said that this led to conflict between the two.
“The negotiations have morphed into an intense, personal dispute, in which hyperbole, passion and spin have often trumped fairness, moderation and neutrality."
Last August, 98 percent of teachers union members voted to authorize a walk out. Los Angeles’ school board answered this by authorizing $3 million to hire substitute teachers to cover classrooms in case the strike occurred.
The battle between LA’s union members and district officials is similar to those across the nation, where educators are fighting against teacher salaries and budget cuts.This activism for education movement began last year as Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers received comprehensive support, and made deals that boosted salaries and increased benefits last year.
The six-day-long strike came to an end on Jan. 22. Both parties came to an agreement as teachers received a 6 percent increase in salaries, lower class sizes, more librarians and counselors per school and limitations on charter school funding.
This agreement will reduce the size of classes by about four students in three years, and eliminates a clause that currently allows the district to exceed the agreed-upon maximum class sizes. The district will hire 41 teacher-librarians and 150 librarians in each of its first two years to have one available full time at all its schools.
LAUSD is the largest public-school system in the state of California, encompassing over 900 schools, 34,000 teachers, and 484,000 students.
During the strike, public schools experienced an attendance rate of only 15 percent. Charter schools's attendance rate dipped to 40 percent, where their teachers were not on strike. Overall the district lost $175 million due to its low attendance during this period.
As LAUSD's union reached an agreement, Denver's teachers union authorized a strike of its own, their first in 14 years. Denver is Colorado's largest school district.