The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said he hoped to resume talks “very soon” as a strike that has interrupted classes for some 492,000 students in the second-largest U.S. public school system ticked into a third day on Wednesday.
More than 30,000 educators have walked off the job demanding higher pay, smaller classes and more staff, requests that the county’s independent school district has described as unaffordable. The two sides have not held formal talks since the strike began on Monday.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, have urged the two sides to return to the bargaining table. The school system does not answer to either of the two executives.
Thousands of teachers represented by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union were set to picket on Wednesday, while the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) planned to use administrators and substitute teachers to keep schools open.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told a morning news conference that he aimed to “get back to the table very soon.”
A representative for LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Newsom has been pushing for the strike to end.
“This impasse is disrupting the lives of too many kids and their families,” the governor said in an online statement on Tuesday. “I strongly urge all parties to go back to the negotiating table and find an immediate path forward that puts kids back into classrooms and provides parents certainty.”
The Los Angeles walkout followed a wave of teachers’ strikes across the United States over pay and school funding, including in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona. Those represented battles between teachers’ unions and Republican-dominated state governments focused on cutting costs, while the Los Angeles strike is the largest in a Democratic-controlled state.
Denver teachers could vote to strike by Saturday if no deal on a new contract is reached by then.
Beutner said the district had offered staff increases that would cost $130 million a year – more than county officials have said is available – while the union’s demands would cost $800 million.
Beutner on Tuesday offered to accompany teachers in lobbying state lawmakers to increase education funding.
The union wants a 6.5 percent pay raise. LAUSD teacher pay currently averages $75,000, according to state figures. The district has offered a 6 percent hike with back pay. (Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)