After picketing at their schools, Los Angeles teachers held seven regional protests Wednesday, with the third day of its strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) attracting some notable celebrities.
Steven Van Zandt, founder of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and an advocate for music education, joined United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) members and supporters at Hamilton High School. “We want to turn STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — into STEAM,” he said. “Art is an essential part of the quality of life.”
Diane Ravitch, who served as assistant education secretary in President George H.W. Bush’s administration and is now a strong opponent of privatization, also joined the protesters at Hamilton.
Picketing for more $ for public schools at Alexander Hamilton High School with UTLA. Smaller classes, full-time nurse in every school, librarians, counselors. STOP PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC MONEY! @Lin_Manuel pic.twitter.com/iyUyn93Lae— Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) January 16, 2019
Meanwhile, UTLA announced late Wednesday that both parties would resume bargaining on Thursday at City Hall after meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has offered to mediate, with additional support from newly elected state Superintendent Tony Thurmond.
"We need the district to engage with us, set up an agreement, so we can re-establish some normalcy in this city," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said during a news briefing on Wednesday, adding that bargaining could stretch through the weekend.
In addition to showing support for UTLA members, other teachers unions that think they’re not making progress at the bargaining table might view the strike as a source of motivation.
In northern California, negotiations between the Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Education Association have now entered a fact-finding stage, in which an independent party will issue recommendations the union can choose to accept or reject. While the union can’t strike while this process is underway, some teachers are planning a one-day walkout for this Friday.
“There is a bit of a sick-out that we’ve heard of,” OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki said in an interview, adding that the district was planning to send extra staff members to the schools affected.
He added, however, that the Los Angeles strike is sending a clear message, and like LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, he blames the way California funds education for issues dividing unions and districts.
“In the greater scheme of things, [the strike is] reminding people of how important teachers are,” he said. “We in California just don’t pay for education the way we need to.”
Other districts threatening strikes include the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which is an American Federation of Teachers affiliate like UTLA. On Tuesday, CTU presented contract demands, calling on the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to increase city funding for schools on the south and west sides of Chicago. As in Los Angeles, the union also wants support for community schools and smaller class sizes. Additionally, along with protections for immigrant students and greater implementation of restorative justice programs.
Friday is also a pivotal day in the negotiations between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools, where the union is at odds with the district over its salary schedule and the amount going toward raises for teachers. The district's current compensation system is set to run out, and the union plans to hold a strike vote Saturday if no agreement is reached.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, UTLA — on the same day members protested outside the California Charter School Association — also showed support this week for fellow union members striking against Accelerated Charter Schools, a group of three independent nonprofit charters in Los Angeles. The strike is the second ever against a charter organization in the U.S. In December, teachers in the Acero charter network in Chicago went on a four-day strike, affecting about 7,500 students.
Julia Koppich, a San Francisco-based education researcher and an expert on teachers unions, said it’s unclear how much impact UTLA’s strike will have on other negotiations across the country. But she said it would likely take intervention from “someone that both sides trust a little bit” to bring an end to the strike in Los Angeles.
Since the strike began, student attendance was at its lowest Wednesday, down 22% from Tuesday to 132,411. The district also issued revised estimates of how much state funding it is losing — more than $20 million each day.