Teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district have announced they’re going on strike today.
United Teachers Los Angeles said negotiations have stalled and that the union didn’t receive a new contract proposal over the weekend, this coming after the strike was delayed from Jan. 10 because of a potential court intervention.
“We’re in the battle for the soul of public education,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Now is the moment for action.”
Schools won’t close, according to the Associated Press. The district has hired hundreds of substitutes to cover for those on the picket lines demanding higher salaries and lower class sizes in a district that includes about 640,000 students.
The striking educators said they want to remedy classes that often have 40-plus students, a lack of counselors and nurses to support students, closed libraries and crumbling classrooms.
Union members told ABC News they’ll strike “for as long as it takes.”
Hiring subs is seen as “irresponsible” by the union, which asked parents to keep students home or join in the protest.
The latest offer from the district, according to the Associated Press, includes adding about 1,200 counselors, nurses and librarians, as well as capping class sizes at 32 to 39 students, depending on the course.
The district also offered a 6 percent raise over the first two years of a three-year contract. The teachers have asked for 6.5 percent, retroactive to the 2017 fiscal year, and said that the district’s insistence on some proposals’ expiring after a year is disrespectful.
“We have not had an honest bargaining partner,” Arlene Inouye, UTLA’s secretary, told ABC News.
Victoria Costas, a mother and teacher, said there are 46 students in her daughter’s math class.
“Classes are far too large to ever get individualized attention,” she said. “Tomorrow I will be out there fighting with my daughter.”
Another teacher, Erika Jones, said that 85 percent of the district’s schools don’t have a full-time nurse.
A tweet from the district’s account said a work stoppage would “harm the students, families and communities we serve.”
District Superintendent Austin Beutner, a former investment banker and deputy mayor of Los Angeles, had no experience in education before taking over last year, according to the AP.
“He’s deeply out of touch with the needs of students and community,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We are more convinced than ever that the district won’t move unless there is a strike. We are going on strike for students, who we miss in our hearts right now. They deserve better.”
Inouye, the union secretary, said in order to reach any kind of common ground with district leadership, “we need a place to start from.”
Union supporters said they expect most of its approximately 35,000 members to join in the strike.
Last year, thousands of teachers in states including Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma walked out of classrooms seeking higher pay and more resources for children.
“This is a fight worth the sacrifice,” Inouye said.
ABC News’ Marilyn Hicks and Leah LaRosa contributed to this report.
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