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LA Teachers On Strike, Calling For More Funding For Classrooms

Thousands of teachers and supporters hold signs in the rain during a rally Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
Thousands of teachers and supporters hold signs in the rain during a rally Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Teachers on strike, this time in Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest school district. We’ll hear the debate on both sides.

Guests

Howard Blume, education reporter at the Los Angeles Times. ( @howardblume)

Gloria Martinez, elementary vice president for the United Teachers of Los Angeles ( @UTLAnow), the main union for the district. She served as a general and special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 18 years. ( @maestraluchando)

Nick Melvoin, vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Education. Taught seventh and eighth grade English in the Los Angeles Unified School District for two years. ( @nickmelvoin)

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association ( @WVEAnews). Helped lead last year’s teacher strike.

From The Reading List

Los Angeles Times: “ Striking L.A. teachers are part of a national movement. But California is different” — “When Los Angeles teachers went on strike Monday, they followed a wave of strikes and demonstrations by teachers around the country.

In some ways, the L.A. strike is similar to those earlier actions. But there are also some big differences, as The Times reported earlier this month. The strike comes at a time when the L.A. teachers’ union is struggling against legal and political challenges to its influence and the increasing number of privately run charter schools, which compete with district-run schools for enrollment.

“Here is a breakdown: Why does the L.A. teachers’ union find itself at a crossroads?

“For decades, United Teachers Los Angeles was the most influential force in the politics of the school system. But it has been unable, in recent elections, to match the campaign spending fueled by wealthy donors who support charter schools. These privately operated, mostly non-union schools now serve about 1 in 5 students enrolled in L.A. public schools. L.A. has more charters than any other school system.

“The rapid growth of charters has created an alternate constituency of parents who support charters and may resent the dark way the union casts their schools.

“In 2017, for the first time, charter-backed candidates won a majority on the L.A. Board of Education.

“A Supreme Court ruling last year also has deprived UTLA, along with other California unions, of the right to collect fees from all teachers within its jurisdiction. Union membership — and the accompanying dues that fuel campaigns — essentially have become optional.”

NPR: “ Under Rainy Skies, Los Angeles Teachers Take To The Picket Lines” — “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.

“‘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.”

Huffington Post: “ Opinion: I’m An LAUSD Teacher. This Is Why We’re Striking.” — “My pregnant wife coughed and wheezed on Saturday as she fed strike signs into the laminator while fighting off a cold. I punched holes in our signs, handed them to her and trimmed each one as they came out of the machine. Behind us, a line of teachers from all over the city waited to do the same; The teaching supply store was providing free lamination for Los Angeles teachers in preparation for the Los Angeles Unified School District teacher strike, which began this morning.

“I’m a 2018-19 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year, and I love my job. I love it so much I spent my rainy Saturday laminating 40 signs and making a dozen strike-related phone calls. I love it so much I spent my Sunday sending out more than a dozen college recommendation letters for my graduating seniors. I’m also the United Teachers Los Angeles chapter chair for my school. This means I’ve been in charge of preparing and motivating our school’s teachers and health and human service workers to strike.

“When people talk about the LAUSD strike, they should consider the fact that 98 percent of us voted to give our union permission to call the strike. This isn’t a battle between one union leader and a school superintendent. It’s a battle between 33,000 UTLA members, the vast majority of LA teachers and other school staff, who spend every day teaching and caring for our students, and the district leaders who are unwilling to work with us to meet their needs. We’re walking out because we feel like we’re part of a rigged game set up to undermine public education. And we’ve decided enough is enough.”

Anna Bauman produced this show for broadcast.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.