Striking L.A. teachers to resume picketing as talks drag on

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Some 30,000 striking Los Angeles teachers were set to return to the picket lines on Tuesday after contract negotiations with America’s second-largest school district stretched into the early morning hours with no word of a deal. More than 1,000 firefighters attending a conference in Los Angeles planned to rally in downtown Tuesday morning in support of the stoppage, to be joined by a marching band of striking music teachers, the union said. The United Teachers Los Angeles union and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has acted as mediator, both said on Monday that progress was being made in efforts to end a strike that disrupted classes for nearly 500,000 students all last week. No spokesperson was available early on Tuesday to say if the sides would pause overnight or keep pushing for a deal. The first strike in three decades against the Los Angeles Unified School District was called to demand higher pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff. The union also has sought restrictions on the steady expansion of independently operated charter schools, arguing they divert resources from the bulk of the district’s students. Union supporters and district officials alike have credited the striking teachers with reawakening public, media and politicians to years of neglect in public school systems around the country. Sympathy for the strike has run high among Los Angeles parents, despite the disruption. The district has said all of its 1,200-plus schools will be open again this week on a limited basis as long as the walkout continues, though attendance during the first five days of the strike dwindled to a fraction of normal levels. Schools were closed on Monday in observance of a national holiday commemorating slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Even if a deal had been reached late Monday night, teachers were instructed to resume picketing on Tuesday to allow time for them to ratify a settlement, the union said. There were a wave of teacher walkouts over salaries and school funding in several U.S. states last year, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. The Los Angeles stoppage differs in that educators face a predominantly Democratic political establishment more sympathetic to their cause. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has framed the dispute in Los Angeles in terms of dollars and cents, saying there is too little money to meet teachers’ demands in full without additional resources from the state. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the district’s reserves had been understated, but also suggested additional state support may be needed to close a deal.

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