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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Solidarity with Los Angeles teachers on strike

L.A. teacher union demands better pay, more staff, student support

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents over 30,000 public and charter school teachers in L.A., entered a second week of striking on Tuesday. While a tentative agreement was reached on Jan. 22, the union stated that it would stay on strike until union members formally voted to approve the contract. Teachers are expected to be back in the classroom on Wednesday.

The UTLA strike was the latest in a series of teacher strikes that began early last year; teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona won significant victories against reticent lawmakers and inspired similar protests in Kentucky, North Carolina and Colorado.

Los Angeles teachers enjoyed an unusually high level of public support. One survey showed that close to 80 percent of Los Angeles residents support the strike. A GoFundMe campaign to bring taco trucks to the picket line, which was set up in hopes of raising $1,000 to feed teachers at a few schools, has raised over $40,000. Hundreds of firefighters marched in solidarity with teachers on Tuesday.

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for better pay, but that’s not all they asked for. UTLA’s demands included smaller class sizes; fewer standardized tests and more teacher discretion over administering tests; increases in per-pupil funding; hiring more school nurses, counselors, social workers, librarians and other staff and increasing charter school accountability. Union members are fighting increased privatization and the encroachment of charter schools, which threaten to undermine public schools and have been shown to increase school segregation and negative outcomes for students. Students will be the primary beneficiaries of the demands won by Los Angeles teachers.

While much of the public discourse about education tends to revolve around improving test scores and learning outcomes –– which are no doubt worthy and important goals –– teacher strikes address something more fundamental and important about the state of American education.

Strong neighborhood public schools not only provide academic education, but also are foundations of the community. Teachers provide care and a stable adult presence to children who may not find such support at home. School nurses and counselors are a vital source of intervention, particularly in a country where medical and mental health care is otherwise inaccessible to many. Free and reduced school lunch programs feed over 20 million hungry kids nationwide every day. In the earliest days of the American republic, the founders recognized that a functioning democracy and civil society were impossible without a robust system of public education.

The Editorial Board is in solidarity with the UTLA teachers on strike. Meeting UTLA’s demands will help ensure that one of the largest school districts in the country continues to have a strong, well-funded and effective public school system that works for its students, its teachers and its community.

Written by: The Editorial Board


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