The fight for the future of public education spilled out of the classroom and onto the streets of Los Angeles this week, where more than 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles are striking for a contract that funds and protects the city’s public schools.
Over the last two years, UTLA members have worked side by side with parents and community allies to call for an investment in L.A.’s neighborhood district schools, through adequate and equitable funding, to ensure all children have access to a truly high-quality public education. Yet the district still insists that its $2 billion surplus can’t be spent on these crucial investments, forcing educators to strike for the schools their students deserve.
On Monday, UTLA members were joined by more than 10,000 parents, students and community members as they picketed at schools across the city, with educators from every school joining the strike. Later in the day, a massive crowd of 50,000 people flooded the streets downtown, marching to Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters to demand reinvestment in the city’s public schools.
As Kirti Baranwal, a teacher with the Spanish-English Bilingual Program at the UCLA Community School, told Jezebel in an interview this week, the strike is about raising standards for Los Angeles’ public schools: “We need the district to show some respect for our communities, for students and families who are mainly working class, mainly Latino and students of color. And we will fight. In the day to day, teachers on the ground hold stuff together. We go above and beyond to take care of our students. And we want the district to do that too, to really push itself. It inspires me that our contract demands are not just about teachers as workers. In our contract, it’s us asking: How do we, as union members, raise standards and the bar for what communities and students deserve? Because the billionaires are not going to do it. The privatizers are not going to do it.”
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said Monday’s outpouring of support for public education and teachers represents “a rebuke to [Superintendent] Austin Beutner’s agenda to starve and privatize our schools.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten joined L.A. teachers on the picket lines, where she told MSNBC, “At the end of the day, this is about the soul of public education. It’s about making sure that every single kid, not just some, has a pathway to success and opportunity. I’m here today because I want the teachers and public to know that the 1.7 million members of the AFT support them.”
As day two of the strike began Tuesday, teachers from the Accelerated Schools charter network made history by joining their LAUSD counterparts, making this the state’s first charter strike. Accelerated Schools teachers say they’re fighting for the right to advocate for their students without fear of reprisal—a protection 90 percent of teachers in Los Angeles already have. They’re also striking for a contract that puts measures in place to reduce the network’s teacher turnover, which rose to a staggering 40 percent last year.
Support for UTLA members and their fight continues to pour in from public education advocates around the country—including AFT affiliate leaders, celebrities and political leaders—who are wearing red in solidarity with L.A. educators, posting messages of support online, raising money for the strike fund, sending letters to Beutner, and planning solidarity walk-ins at schools and other work sites nationwide.
There are three ways you can get involved to show your support:
- Tweet a message of support and spread the word on Facebook.
- Sign the petition to LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner telling him to stop starving L.A. schools.
- Make a contribution to the Los Angeles Teacher/Parent Strike Solidarity Fund.