No talks scheduled as LA teacher strike enters day three

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles school administrators urged the union to resume bargaining as tens of thousands of teachers planned to walk picket lines for a third day yesterday, after being joined on strike for the first time by some of their counterparts from independent charter schools.

“We need our educators back in our classrooms helping inspire our students,” said Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner. Teachers are pressing for higher pay, smaller class sizes and more support staff that school officials say could bankrupt the nation’s second-largest system.

Teachers with the independent Accelerated Schools charter network — who are also union members but negotiate their contract separately — walked off the job on Tuesday to demand better working conditions and in support for public school educators.

Los Angeles is experiencing the same tension over charter schools seen in other states, with critics arguing the privately run public schools hurt district finances by drawing away students and the money that goes with them. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl has called the funds flowing to charters an “existential threat”.

But Caputo-Pearl said the union isn’t against all charters, just their “unregulated growth”.

Demonstrators gather during a teachers rally in Los Angeles. – AP

“We don’t need to have the grow-as-fast-as-you-can business model that’s promoted by charter school billionaires,” he said. “We need to invest in our existing schools.”

Beutner has said he envisions moving toward a system with public and charter schools under the same leadership. Critics contend Beutner, an investment banker with no education background, wants to run schools like a business.

Charter teachers joining the strike is a big deal because it shows they “see themselves in solidarity with the broader body of district educators,” said John Rogers, a professor of education at University of California, Los Angeles.

It wasn’t clear how many charter teachers walked off the job.

Unlike strikes in other states, all 1,240 K-12 schools in LA Unified were open. The district has hired hundreds of substitutes to replace tens of thousands of staff, a move the union has called irresponsible.