LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles teachers will extend their strike to a sixth school day on Tuesday even if contract negotiators reach a deal before then, because the union rank-and-file must ratify any tentative agreement before ending the walkout, the union said on Monday. A fifth day of contract negotiations took place on Monday in an attempt to end a strike that has disrupted classes for some 500,000 students in the country’s second-largest school district.
Striking Los Angeles teachers carry homemade signs at a rally at a school district office in Gardena just south of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Dan Whitcomb
If a deal on a new contract is reached before class on Tuesday, the first L.A. teachers’ strike in 30 years would still continue as union members would need time to vote on the deal before returning to work, the union said, citing the logistical difficulty of getting 33,000 teachers back to work in one day.
“We are making progress but whether or not we reach an agreement late tonight, everyone should report to picket lines as usual Tuesday morning. We will need to ratify the TA (temporary agreement) before we end the strike,” UTLA said on Twitter.
More than 30,000 teachers walked off the job a week ago, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff.
UTLA planned a news conference on Monday at 3:30 p.m. PT (2330 GMT).
The talks were being mediated by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, which does not have oversight of the schools. The talks continued overnight on Sunday and resumed again on Monday morning, Garcetti’s office said in a statement.
District Superintendent Austin Beutner has said there is not enough money to meet the teachers’ demands without additional state funding. He said last week he would continue to keep all of the district’s 1,200 schools open this week on a limited basis if a deal were not reached.
The strike had already cost the district about $125 million – education funding in California is based on daily attendance – and collectively cost students more than 1.5 million days of instruction, according to Beutner.
The union says disagreements over proposals to reduce class size pose the biggest stumbling block to a settlement.
Another major point of contention has been the union’s call for curbing the steady expansion of independently managed charter schools, which it says divert resources from traditional classroom instruction.
Several possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, including Garcetti, have voiced solidarity with the strike. Support also was running high among parents and the public, a recent survey of Los Angeles residents showed.
Last year saw a wave of teacher walkouts over salaries and school funding in several U.S. states including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. The Los Angeles work stoppage differs in that educators face a predominantly Democratic political establishment more sympathetic to their cause.
The teachers’ union in Denver held a strike authorization vote on Saturday after rejecting a contract offer. Results will be announced on Tuesday. A strike vote by teachers in Oakland, California, also was expected later this week.
Reporting by Steve Gorman, writing by Daniel Trotta and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman