As scores of Los Angeles teachers formed picket lines for the second day of a massive strike, school district officials said student attendance plummeted and that the district lost $15 million on Day 1 of the classroom walkout.
The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) union reported that 30,000 public school teachers signed in at picket lines formed around the city on Monday and that more than 50,000 people -- including 10,000 parents, students and community supporters -- participated in a rain-soaked march from the UTLA headquarters to Los Angeles City Hall.
Union officials said that just as many teachers hit picket lines on Tuesday, for Day 2 of the strike, in the second largest school district in the nation. It's the first teacher strike in Los Angeles in 30 years.
"We are going to win this fight for basic respect for educators and basic respect for our schools," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told striking educators Tuesday morning. "Take pride in your teaching. Take pride in being a teacher, take pride in being an educator and take pride in the organizing that you are doing for your rights right now."
The Los Angeles Unified School District reported that student attendance at schools fell on Monday to 141,631 in a district of nearly 600,000 students. District officials said the number of student absences was based on daily attendance records of 1,186 of the district's 1,240 schools.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said there were no immediate plans to jump-start negotiations with the teachers' union. Negotiations broke down on Friday when the union rejected the district's latest offer.
Beutner said the district lost about $15 million on Monday, explaining that state funding is based on the number of students attending classes.
"Ninty percent of our funding comes from Sacramento," said Beutner, referring to the state legislature.
"I want to speak to the billionaires. We’re not going way of New Orleans, where you privatized & closed every single public school in that city. Public ed. is not your plaything – it belongs to the people of L.A."— United Teachers Los Angeles (@UTLAnow) January 15, 2019
- Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA President
#UTLAStrong #LAUSDstrike pic.twitter.com/hQZGcHiEjq
The district hired hundreds of substitutes teachers to keep schools open and cover for those on the picket lines.
"The painful truth is we just don't have enough money to do everything that UTLA is asking Los Angeles Unified to do," Beutner said. "The state and county regulators have told us this repeatedly. An independent expert appointed by the state of California has said exactly the same thing."
The striking educators are asking for a 6.5 percent pay raise, small class sizes and for the district to add about 1,200 support staff positions, including counselors, nurses and librarians.
I stand in solidarity with @UTLAnow teachers who began striking today in Los Angeles for the first time in 30 years. Teaching is one of the most valuable and indispensable professions. We need to treat educators with respect and dignity. #UTLAStrong https://t.co/KsdTU7gA7G— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 15, 2019
Beutner said if the district were to give the UTLA everything it wants, it would cost the district an extra $800 million a year.
He said the state-appointed independent fact finder has told the school district that it has resources to invest $30 to $90 million more.
"We haven't found a way to find those dollars. The county and the state and the independent fact finder have said we do not have the dollars," Buetner said.