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Los Angeles teachers’ strike: 5 things you need to know

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers are on strike for the first time in 30 years. Here are 5 things you need to know:

1 | Schools will be open. Kind of

L.A. Unified has said that all schools will be open during the strike, and that students will receive instruction. But staffing will be thin. About 400 substitutes and 2,000 credentialed district staff will be spread out to fill in for about 31,000 members of the teachers union. A district guide advises parents that “students are expected to attend school every day. Schools will be open and students will participate in instructional programs.”

The guide also states: “School hours, morning and after-school programs, and meals will NOT change. The regular school schedule will be observed.”

That pronouncement is optimistic based on plans at various schools.

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Many schools intend to gather large groups of students in big spaces so that they can supervise them with fewer adults. It’s unclear how much regular teaching, if any, will take place, although the district has purchased more computer-based education programs.

Parents need to check on whether any particular program or extracurricular activity — before, during or after school — is continuing. Many will not be.

Schools will get some help from volunteers. Principals can take advantage of recently approved emergency rules that let adult family members of students assist without the usual fingerprinting and vetting.

Quite a few parents have said they would send their children to school but then gauge their safety and the quality of academic instruction.

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Charter schools, which serve about one in five L.A. public school students, either are non-union or have separate union contracts. They will not be affected by a strike with one exception. Teachers at The Accelerated Schools, south of downtown, are involved in their own labor dispute and could begin their own strike on Tuesday.

2 | Keeping kids safe and feeding them will be top priorities

Whether much learning occurs, the school district has financial motivation to get students onto campus: The school district receives most of its funding based on student attendance.

Officials also understand that schools provide childcare for working parents and as many as three meals a day for many students from low-income or homeless families.

LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner noted: “We serve a million meals a day.”

However, if parents were not reassured that the schools were safe during a strike, they probably would keep children home — or try to make other arrangements.

A Los Angeles School Police Department officer will be present on every middle and high school campus, and two city police officers will be stationed at each of the elementary schools within city boundaries, authorities said.

In areas of the district outside the city limits, school police are working with other law enforcement agencies in their preparation.

School police do not plan to issue citations for minor infractions such as jaywalking and truancy unless someone’s life is in danger.

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3 | It won’t just be teachers who are absent

School nurses, counselors and librarians also are members of the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles. They will be on strike too. And other district employees who belong to other unions may strike in sympathy.

Classified staff — who include teachers’ aides, custodians and cafeteria workers — will report for work at all but 10 campuses. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 who work at those 10 schools voted to participate in sympathy strikes. Students will still get meals at those schools, according to the district.

About 31,000 United Teachers of Los Angeles employees plan to strike. Students can expect to see significant cuts in the number of faculty present.

4 | The strike will last longer than a day

The focus of union leaders on Monday will be on the launch of the strike. They have no talks scheduled that day, union President Alex Caputo-Pearl told The Times.

The strike, therefore, is expected to last at least two days. A better bet would be at least a week, but this is hard to predict.

5 | Key differences still separate the two sides

The two sides are not that far apart on salary, but they still haven’t even agreed on which topics are proper for negotiation. The school district wants to keep the talks as narrow as possible — and would have preferred a deal based on the size of the wage increase.

The district has bent on this issue and widened the scope of its proposal to include $130 million for class-size reduction and new staffing.

But the union wants far more hiring and a commitment that the new positions be funded for more than one year. District officials say that budget constraints won’t permit either.

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UTLA also wants the district to engage on the topics of adult education, bilingual education, early education and programs for students with disabilities. And the union wants teachers to have more say when a charter school shares a campus with a traditional school.

howard.blume@latimes.com

Twitter: @howardblume

sonali.kohli@latimes.com

Twitter: @Sonali_Kohli


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