Backing Teachers, Sanders Says LA Strike Exposes National Need for 'Revolution in Public Education'
Tens of thousands of public school teachers and support staff with the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest district in the country—continued the city’s first strike in three decades on Thursday.
The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) kicked off the long-promised strike on Monday over unmet demands for higher payer; smaller class sizes; more special education staff, bilingual education instructors, nurses, counselors, and librarians; and stricter regulation of the city’s many charter schools.
UTLA charges that district superintendent Austin Beutner—a pro-charter school former business executive with no education background—is unqualified for the job. The district has 640,000 students, and while about 500,000 are enrolled in public schools, Los Angeles has more charter schools than anywhere else in the United States.
As negotiations resumed at City Hall on Thursday, with Los Angeles’ Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti mediating between the district and union representatives, strike supporters and participants shared updates from the streets with the hashtags #LAUSDStrike, #UTLAStrong, #WeAreLA, and #RedForEd.
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Even though California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, public schools across the state have struggled for decades to adequately serve students, particularly in communities of color and regions with low incomes.
The strike—which has cast a spotlight on rifts within the Democratic Party in the solidly blue state—has garnered support from multiple Democrats in Congress, including Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.).
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in an email sent to his supporters on Thursday, expressed solidarity with the teachers, tying the protests to the broader issue of “a rigged economy” that gives major tax breaks to billionaires and corporations rather than investing in educating children.
“What we accept as normal today with regard to education, I want your grandchildren to tell you that you were crazy to accept,” Sanders wrote. Calling for free, full-day, high-quality childcare for every child, starting at age three, and tuition-free public college, he concluded that “what we really need in this country is a revolution in public education.”
The ongoing strike in Los Angeles follows various #RedForED walkouts and rallies that public school teachers and unions organized last year across Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
And the push to improve L.A. schools has inspired even more teachers to protest. According to Payday Report, on Jan. 28, “thousands of teachers marching under the banner of Virginia Educators United are planning to call off from school for only one day in order to march on the state legislature.”