LAUSD Teachers Strike, Day 2: Beutner Says District Lost $25 Million in Attendance, but Saved $10 Million in Wages

Pasadena Star-News, January 15, 2019 | Go to article overview

LAUSD Teachers Strike, Day 2: Beutner Says District Lost $25 Million in Attendance, but Saved $10 Million in Wages


Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers headed back to rain-dampened picket lines Tuesday as the district’s chief made a plea for a renewed effort to seek funding from the state to help meet teachers’ demands on the second day of the giant school system’s first walkout in 30 years.

It was a day when the collective call for smaller class sizes, a salary bump, more nurses and counselors at local campuses and the regulation of charter schools continued to echo from megaphones and chants from the San Fernando Valley to San Pedro.

Picketing LA Unified teachers were joined by their counterparts at The Accelerated Schools charter school in South Los Angeles, who also went on strike Tuesday, calling for increased teachers’ salaries and health benefits in order to bolster teacher rentention. Those teachers are represented by the same union that represents teachers in the LAUSD. The walkout was said to be the first ever in California by charter-school teachers.

Day 2 — like Day 1 — was also marked by half-full classrooms and campuses, leaving administrators, students and substitute teachers trying to bring some sense of normalcy to the situation. All 1,240 elementary, middle and high schools were open Monday and again Tuesday, thanks in part to substitute teachers and credentialed school staffers, Beutner said. Bus service was operating normally, and meals were being served to students as usual.

But the emptiness did not go unnoticed.

“Our students are best served with an educator in every classroom,” said L.A. Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner in a morning news conference, where he was flanked by School Board President Monica Garcia. “We need our educators back in our classrooms, helping to inspire our students.”

Educators back in classrooms means students back in classrooms. And that means dollars for a district that needs them.

Beutner announced that 159,142 students attended school Tuesday, about 17,000 more than went to school on Monday (141,631). The district has about 500,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and typically about 450,000 would attend school on a rainy day, Beutner said. Ninety percent of the district’s funding comes from the state. And because the district receives funding based on student attendance, Beutner said the district lost about $25 million, and saved $10 million because of unpaid wages to striking teachers and staff who walked the picket lines on the first day.

Beutner on Tuesday lamented the state’s funding model, which allocates $68 per pupil to the district for each day they attend. But, he said, it would take a concerted effort between a truly unified school district — union and district together — to lobby the state for a better funding model that could help ease the district’s financial woes.

“Let’s get to Sacramento and let’s have the conversation in the right place,” he said.

After two years of contentious bargaining, Beutner appeared to be trying to strike a conciliatory tone, saying he wished he and the district could meet teachers’ demands.

But the “painful truth” is that the district did not have enough money — and that state and local regulators have confirmed the district’s precarious financial position.

District and union negotiators have found little common ground, prompting thousands of teachers to make good on a threat to strike on Monday — the first district walkout since 1989. On Day 1, they formed early picket lines outside schools across the vast district and converged in downtown Los Angeles, where they marched from LA City Hall to LA Unified headquarters.

Despite urging from elected leaders such as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom to hash out a deal, the district and United Teachers Los Angeles remain locked in an impasse over the union’s demands for a 6.5 percent raise, smaller class sizes, more counseling and nursing resources at local campuses and regulation of charter schools. …

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