LOS ANGELES (CN) – Bargaining between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers’ union resumed Thursday as nearly 30,000 educators entered the fourth day of their strike at the nation’s second largest public school district.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will facilitate negotiations between the school district and United Teachers of Los Angeles for bargaining talks on Thursday.
Educators took to the picket lines Monday at over 1,200 schools. Union representatives say more than 15,000 parents have joined the strike, while the school district says it’s losing between $22 million to $24 million a day due to waning student attendance. The latest figures offered by the district late Thursday estimated the loss of state funding at about $100 million.
Picket lines stretched across the school district this week and students have taken to social media to document their time in school, which has included movies in the school gymnasium and college prep work while others joined the walkout.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond met with representatives from the district and union Wednesday to jumpstart bargaining talks.
Union representatives rejected a proposal from the school district this past Friday which centered on a $130 million budget increase for the upcoming school year, the addition of 1,200 more educators, nurses and librarians to schools and a reduction in class size by two students in all middle and high schools.
UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the offer was rejected because it would only be in play for a year at a select number of schools, despite the district’s nearly $2 billion reserves. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district faces a budget deficit and needs a rainy-day cushion.
The union also seeks a cap on how much money charter schools receive across the district.
On Wednesday, LAUSD board member Scott Schmerelson sided with teachers in an open letter.
“I can no longer allow Mr. Beutner to speak for me or to suggest that the massive public relations, and often misinformation, campaign, that he is waging represents my views about the current teachers strike,” wrote Schmerelson.
Also on Wednesday activists from Reclaim Our Schools LA, parents and union members rallied outside LAUSD board member Monica Garcia’s home.
And Thursday afternoon, a group of students from Ramon Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts crossed Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles wearing rain ponchos and holding protest signs.
Carlos Posadas, 17, Samora Jones, 16, Janet Escobar, 16, and Amber Goring, 16, all high school juniors, have rallied with other students and their teachers including on Monday when the strike first kicked off.
“You can see how passionate the teachers were and so I decided to picket with them. They were really emotional and it was positive,” said Jones. “Going to City Hall was really powerful.”
Goring said the strike has put her teachers in a new light. Teachers have discussed social justice issues at school, but the strike has provided a new perspective.
“We just saw them as more human. It was a different personality going from teacher to protester,” said Goring. “Not so much as an authoritative person, but they just seemed happier.”
Meanwhile, music teacher Erick Sanchez, 26, from Henry Gage Middle School in Huntington Park has been playing the tuba on the picket line. Sanchez said there has a perception that teachers are babysitters but he’s hopeful the strike and all the attention that’s being paid to education in Los Angeles will dissolve that notion.
“I wanted to be a teacher to help out students,” said Sanchez. “My classroom provides a safe haven. They’re involved in a new type of community and they get a sense of belonging.”
UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl summarized the day’s bargaining talks as “good and hard work done.” He said talks will likely continue through the weekend.
The teachers’ union plans to end their week of strike actions with a rally in downtown Los Angeles on Friday.