Cooper Rummell

For First Time in CA, Charter School Teachers Join in on Day 2 of Strike

January 15, 2019 - 9:00 am

(CNS/KNX 1070) -- LA teachers are back on the picket lines on the second day of their first strike in 30 years.

There are no new talks scheduled.

Meanwhile, the first ever strike of charter teachers in California is underway Tuesday morning outside The Accelerated School in South Los Angeles. They say they’re seeking binding arbitration, due process & competitive health benefits. 

Superintendent Austin Beutner said that a large number of kids stayed home and did not go to school on the first day. He says fewer than 150,000 kids came to class on the first day of the walk out, less than 30 percent of those enrolled. 

"About 144,000 students attended school on a normal rainy day. We would have had closer to 450,000. Even neighboring Inglewood had a drop of almost 30 percent attendance in some of its schools. The strike is clearly having a big impact on the Los Angeles area," he said. 

For his part, union chief Alex Caputo-Pearl tells KNX there is a key stumbling block in the way of a settlement:

"The No. 1 thing that has to happen with class size is the district has to remove a clause from the contract that allows them to unilaterally blow through class size caps whenever they want to. As long as that is in the contract, we will never get below class size.  That said, once that is out of the contract, we can start driving class size down. We know it's not all going to happen in one year," Caputo-Pearl said.

The chairwoman of the LA County board of supervisors, Janice Hahn, tells KNX she's calling for new efforts to settle the strike:

"I'm hopeful that the elected Board of Education can give Austin Beutner some direction in that way. They want to get it settled, they think the teacher are not being unreasonable, to put his best effort and his negotiating skills into settling this contract so the teachers win and the students win," she said.

The board will be discussing an extra $10 million dollars in funding today for the LAUSD to pay for mental health counselors and nurses.

Tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers went on strike Monday for the first time in three decades after contract negotiations failed in the nation's second-largest school district, but although schools stayed open with the help of substitutes, many schools felt like ghost towns. 

At Marianna Elementary School, only 89 kids our of 358 were on campus today. One teacher told KNX reporter Cooper Rummell that the school was "like a big daycare center." 

For kids who went to school, bus service was normal, breakfast and lunches were served, and "students are safe and learning," Superintendent Austin Beutner said at a press conference.

About a third of LAUSD students attended classes on the first day of the strike, according to district officials. The district serves nearly a half- million students and about 142,000 were on campuses Monday.

All 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools were open, thanks in part to substitute teachers and credentialed school staffers, Superintendent Austin Beutner said. Bus service was operating normally, and meals were being served to students as usual.

At 10 schools, non-teaching personnel took part in a sympathy strike, leaving administrators to prepare and serve meals, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Negotiations between the two sides broke off Friday and United Teachers Los Angeles announced its members would strike beginning Monday. Beutner said Monday the district is "committed to resolve the contract negotiations as soon as possible."

"This represents the best we can do, recognizing that it is our obligation to provide as much resources as possible to support out students in each and every one of our schools," Beutner said Friday. Beutner urged UTLA on Monday to resume bargaining "anytime, anywhere, 24/7."

The district increased its contract offer on Friday when Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his state budget proposal which includes more money for school districts across the state. The offer also includes, among other things, reducing class sizes in middle schools, a full-time nurse at every elementary school and another academic counselor at high schools. The increased staffing would only be for one year as the district said the money to pay for the extra employees would come out of a one-time reserve, the Times reported.

"Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. "The question is: do we starve our public neighborhood schools so that they (become) privatized, or do we re-invest in our public neighborhood schools for our students and for a thriving city?"

Los Angeles County supervisors are scheduled to vote today on a proposal to give the district up to $10 million for nursing and mental health services.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday a deal could be close.

"This is the time to make an agreement," he told the Times. "There is not much that separates the two sides. And there has been movement toward what the teachers have demanded and what the district can afford."

The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6 percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract while UTLA wants a 6.5 percent raise that would take effect all at once and a year sooner. The union claims the district's proposed salary hike would be contingent on benefit cuts for future union members.

As the second largest school district in the nation, the LAUSD covers an area totaling 710 square miles and serves more than 694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter schools, most of which are staffed with non-union teachers who would not be affected by the strike. The district says about 500,000 students and 1,100 schools will be impacted by the walkout.

Beutner said Monday that educational activities were continuing in schools, although it was unclear to what extent classes were being held. The district hired 400 substitutes, and 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials have been reassigned.

UTLA represents more than 31,000 teachers.

The district has set up an information hotline for parents at (213) 443-1300.

There will be a wide variety of resources available for students and parents because students are still expected to go to school every day.