After months of planning, warnings and impassioned rhetoric from both the Los Angeles Unified School District and the United Teachers of Los Angeles teachers’ union, as well as an 11th hour, four-day delay to resolve some legal wrangling, Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike this morning, with picket lines sprouting outside all our local schools during the early morning school drop-off period.
Despite heavy rains at the time most students would normally be arriving at school, teacher participation in the picket lines was high (one teacher at Wilshire Crest Elementary School reported a full turnout by that school’s teaching staff), moods were enthusiastic (a PA system outside LA High, blasted musical encouragement), coffee, rain ponchos and umbrellas were in good supply…and while passing motorists honked their horns in support of the teachers, student arrivals appeared to be far below their normal levels. Jennifer Walker, a preschool teacher at Wilshire Crest, said she had seen only about 10 families arrive at the school’s main gate by 8:10 a.m., the time the first bell rings, while a few others arrived at a gate on the other side of the campus. This reporter saw only two students entering John Burroughs Middle School during a brief visit a few minutes later.
As previously reported, all LAUSD schools are open today, students are officially required to attend, and schools will be taking and reporting attendance as usual…though it was expected that many families would keep students home in support of the striking teachers. Most schools are planning to forego their usual class schedules, and will instead break students into groups that will rotate among Math, English, PE and Social Studies (and/or elective) instruction over the course of each school day during the strike.
For those who are keeping their kids home during the strike, the City of Los Angeles is providing enhanced programming for children and families at all libraries and several park recreation centers. Cultural institutions such as The Natural History Museum, La Brea Tar Pits, LA Zoo and others will offer free admission for LAUSD students…and Metro is offering free transportation (for details see the link above). Also, some more commercial organizations, such the Second City comedy group, will also be holding special classes, camps, discounts and/or activities for LAUSD students during the strike.
Here are a few more photos from this morning’s activities outside Wilshire Crest Elementary School and John Burroughs Middle School. Scenes were similar at several other schools we drove by between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
By many estimates, the strike could be long and politically brutal. Teachers have not struck in Los Angeles since 1989, and while past contract disuptes have focused on traditional labor issues such as salaries, benefits and pensions, UTLA members say that this time it’s more about other factors that influence student and school success — such as providing every school with a dedicated nurse and librarian, reducing class sizes, and reducing the amount of mandated standardized testing…as well as stemming the charter school tide and preserving more of the district’s scant funding and other resources for traditional neighborhood schools. LAUSD, however, insists it just doesn’t have the funding to fully meet the teachers’ demands and that it just can’t provide more for the requested items than it has already offered.
So a lot of classrooms are empty today, a lot of administrators doing the best they can with a very short staff, and a lot of teachers are trying to make themselves heard over the sounds and sogginess of a mid-winter rain storm.