Many of the United Teachers Los Angeles members and their supporters were clad in red as part of the union's "Big Red Tuesday" event, described by the organization as "a show of support for our bargaining team and our contract demands for the schools L.A. students deserve."
The teachers are asking for increased pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians. Many of the demonstrators' picket signs reflected those demands as they gathered at the intersection of East First and San Pedro streets, which were closed to traffic.
Thousands of teachers demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the California Charter School Association in downtown Los Angeles, highlighting another issue that concerns LA teachers - the growth of charter schools. UTLA is demanding a cap on charter schools.
"There's a saturation point in Los Angeles right now, where every new charter school that gets opened is a nail in the coffin of a public school," said UTLA executive director Jeff Good.
Teachers at The Accelerated Schools charter school in South L.A. also went on strike Tuesday, calling for increased teachers' salaries and health benefits in order to improve teacher retention. Those educators are represented by the same union that represents LAUSD teachers.
"This is only the second charter school strike in the United States," Good said during the rally. "And so it's not by accident that we're coming right here, at the California Charter Schools Association, to say enough is enough.
"Stop trying to privatize public schools here in Los Angeles and across this country," he continued. "Public education is not a playground for the rich, it is a playground for the public."
Thousands of teachers and their supporters packed the streets outside the California Charter Schools Association headquarters. #UTLA says charter schools are draining resources from standard public schools, one of many reasons for the ongoing #LAUSD teachers strike. pic.twitter.com/RpwPywoJNR— Rob Hayes (@abc7robhayes) January 15, 2019
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the first day of the strike hit the district hard. The fact that only one-third of the district's students showed up will cost the district $25 million in state funding based on attendance, Beutner said. Unpaid wages for the strikers amounted to $10 million, meaning the district suffered a one-day loss of $15 million.
On the second day, preliminary district figures indicated an increase in student attendance of about 20,000, or 13 percent, compared to Monday.
Beutner said at most the district could offer another $130 million in funding for class-size reduction and other issues, but the union's demands amount to another $800 million.
At a morning news conference, Beutner said the teachers' union and the 31,000 members who walked off the job should join with the district in pushing Sacramento to better fund schools.
"Let's build on the renewed attention on public education in our community," he said. "Let's bottle it. Let's put it on our buses and let's go to Sacramento."