In January 2019, teachers in Los Angeles went on a strike for better pay and improved school funding in the state. Tens of thousands of teachers outside schools for six days. Teachers claimed the government’s current education reforms are a sham and affect national student performance. States close public schools, open chartered institutions and roll out standard education curriculums (Davis, 2019). This strike was similar to a nine-day strike the nation witnessed in states like West Virginia in the previous year, where teachers also complained about attacks on teachers’ tenure, merit enumeration, and restricted collective bargaining rights. Additionally, teachers claimed their strike was primarily centered on students’ welfares.
The latest strike was a protest against reduced salaries for teachers for the first time in decades. For instance, Oakland is known for its high cost of living that affects teachers’ financial disposition. Liberals in Los Angeles believe that teachers’ demands have reasonable grounds while conservatives believe that teacher’s benefits, particularly pensions, are responsible for the government’s budget shortfalls in education. The Trump administration and supporters back this notion as well. In their opinions, teachers’ benefits are responsible for the increased cost of education for the American student. Also, public schools already do enough and funding should be directed to other institutions that support students (CNN, 2019).
There’s no evidence of unethical conduct from either side of the parties during the Los Angeles teachers’ strike negotiations. After a week-long strike, public school teachers in this state signed a deal. Teachers won a significant 6% salary increment in an agreement that addressed most of their student- oriented concerns. The deal included restrictions on class sizes, recruitment of full time school nurses and librarians more so in middle and high schools by fall off 2020. The district also reduced standardized test assessments by a half. Additionally, the pro- charter schools board agreed to cap the number of charter schools.
The strike was mediated by the Mayor, Eric Garcetti who initially shied away from any involvement with public schools. According to Medina (2019), he helped to broker a deal in negotiations at City Hall as a third party perhaps because of the strike’s national traction and its possible effects on his future political aspirations. In an interview with New York Times, the mayor stated he facilitated inclusive conversations between two parties, the teachers union and the district, which were at loggerheads for the past two years. This dispute shouldn’t have dragged out for such a long period. Garcetti set some ground rules for commitment, positivity and confidentiality from both parties, which guided these negotiations.
In retrospect, the mayor’s mediation probably saved the situation yet initiatives from his end would have solved this problem pointed towards earlier. This strike also points to the need for long term education reforms in Los Angeles. This strike drew attention to how California under-funds public schools despite its wealth and liberalism. The state’s chronic insufficient school funds are attributed to restrictive property tax laws, increased pensions and cost of health care and strategies to counter this should be taken. Lastly, several studies show that collective bargaining rarely responds to teachers’ demands effectively. The Los Angeles strike was a rare case that fully heeded teachers’ demands. If unions indeed effectively worked, the history of teachers’ strikes in America wouldn’t be extensive.