Los Angeles likely to witness teachers impasse as thousands expected to hit streets
More than 30,000 teachers are expected to walk off the job in public schools across Los Angeles early on Monday in the first teachers' strike in the city in 30 years. No formal talks were held over the weekend, dashing hopes of an 11th-hour deal between United Teachers Los Angeles and the nation's second-largest school district. Talks broke down on Friday when union leaders said they were "insulted" by the latest contract offer from district officials.
Students arriving early on Monday for classes at some 900 campuses will be met by teachers picketing in the morning rain predicted for the LA area. Teachers also plan a boisterous rally and march to City Hall. "You can't put students first if you put teachers last," the UTLA union posted on Twitter late on Sunday. "We're at a complete impasse," union president Alex Caputo-Pearl, told local media on Friday. But district officials implored the union leaders to reconsider their offer.
The union wants a 6.5 per cent pay rise, more librarians, counsellors and nurses on campuses, smaller class sizes and less testing, as well as a moratorium on new charter schools. Negotiators for the Los Angeles County School District, which educates about 640,000 students, have countered with a proposed 6 per cent salary hike with back pay and a $100 million investment to hire more staff and decrease class sizes. Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner said Friday's offer to teachers was beefed up after newly installed California Governor Gavin Newsom increased education spending in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.
Union bargaining chair Arlene Inouye said she and her fellow negotiators were "insulted" by the proposal. The two sides have not met since Friday. The union had called for the strike last week but postponed it until Monday after the district said it had not been given a legally required 10-day notice of the labour action. The district has urged teachers not to walk out, saying it would hurt the more than 600,000 students who returned from winter break last week as well as their mostly working-class parents, who would struggle to provide childcare.
"A strike will harm the students, families and communities we serve, and we have a responsibility to resolve the situation without a strike," the district said after negotiations stalled on Friday. A strike in Los Angeles would mark the latest job action by teachers nationwide who have called for better pay and working conditions. Educators in Oakland, California, staged a rally on Saturday in support of their colleagues across the state, while teachers in Denver have said they will walk out on Monday as well if a deal is not reached on a new contract.
(With inputs from agencies.)