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New Year Likely to Bring More Teacher Strikes

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 12/29/2018 Lauren Camera
The Associated Press: Thousands of teachers rally in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 15. Some 31,000 educators in Los Angeles, the second-biggest school district in the country, are planning to walk out on Jan. 10. © The Associated Press Thousands of teachers rally in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 15. Some 31,000 educators in Los Angeles, the second-biggest school district in the country, are planning to walk out on Jan. 10.

When it comes to education, 2018 was the year of the teacher strikes.

The number of teachers who walked out of classrooms and onto picket lines to demand higher pay, smaller class sizes and increased funding for K-12 students was unprecedented, according to education historians.

The movements in places like Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia galvanized educators around the country, prompting thousands of them to run for office in the 2018 midterm election.

But as 2019 approaches, teachers are setting up to ring in the new year by continuing to wrestle with the same old issues.

Already some 31,000 educators in Los Angeles, the second-biggest school district in the country, are planning to walk out on Jan. 10 after the Los Angeles Unified District and the United Teachers Los Angeles failed to reach an agreement over issues including pay, class size, testing and charter schools.

"Unless these issues are genuinely addressed and reflected in a bargaining proposal, educators will be on the picket lines," union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. "By dragging us through bad faith bargaining for 20 months and refusing to invest in our schools, the district has disrespected our students and disrespected us. We have exhausted our options."

It would be the first strike in the school district since 1989, when more than 20,000 teachers walked out during a nine-day labor action.

But teachers in L.A. aren't the only ones gearing up for a fight.

In Oakland, where educators have been working without a contract since 2017, the union's executive board gave the green light earlier this month for its 2,300 teachers to strike after ongoing negotiations over pay remain unresolved.

As it stands, teachers have asked for a 12 percent salary increase over three years, but the district offered just a 5 percent increase.

"Teachers are fed up with the poor working conditions and salaries, and with the learning conditions that our students are having to endure," Keith Brown, the president of the Oakland Teachers Association, said in a statement. "We are fighting to end Oakland's teacher turnover crisis and to bring stability for our students. We demand a living wage, lower class sizes, and increased student support."

The union has planned for a rally Jan. 12, a Saturday. A group of about 75 teachers from Oakland High School already held a one-day rally at the capitol earlier this month.

Similarly, teachers across the state of Virginia are readying for a rally Jan. 28, a Monday, that will include a march at the state capitol in Richmond, where they plan to demand that lawmakers provide more K-12 spending to cover salary increases, infrastructure needs, and recruit a more diverse and high-quality teaching workforce, among other things.

"We refuse to permit our kids to go to schools where the buildings are collapsing, where teachers are overworked and under compensated, and where there are fewer and fewer resources every year," Virginia Educators United, the grassroots organization planning the rally, posted to its web site earlier this month.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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