It’s Monday morning, January 14th, and Los Angeles is finally getting its yearly rain, although that doesn’t stop Araceli Magallanes from getting herself and her five-year-old daughter, Tatyana, ready for a day of protest. When they left their Los Angeles home that morning, they joined parents, teachers, and even students outside of Amestoy Elementary to participate in what looked to be a week and a day-long strike.
Last week began a movement that parents and teachers of the LAUSD district said, “will go down in history.” Teachers in the district made some demands, ones they claim will benefit students, teachers, and the schools themselves.
Teachers wanted a smaller class size; their classes have only increased in the last four years. LAUSD officials proposed that a decrease of a handful of students per class would make matters slightly easier. There was also a request for a full-time school nurse, a librarian for the library, and a higher pay raise, though they all knew that was almost impossible.
“I’ve only ever been in the library a handful of times since being here,” said Karla Perez, a senior at Venice High School. “The nurse usually isn’t here so an office T.A. has to assist me.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District has over 1,000 schools and over 600,000 students between kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Each class carrying a teacher to student ratio of 1:40.
Regina Flores, a 9th grade English teacher here at Da Vinci Communications said, “Our classrooms don’t surpass 34 students and even then, I can’t imagine adding another,” with a shake of her head, she rid herself of the thought.
Here at DVC, our classes are small; in the LAUSD district, the class sizes begin at 34 and almost reach up to 42 students. As a result, grading in classrooms takes much longer and the energy the teachers may have is decreasing. The problem, however, did not start there.
According to United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the problem formed almost four decades ago, but the latest LAUSD offer led to the strike when teachers’ requests were not met after months of negotiations.
“The strike was definitely an eye-opener for me, it helped me understand who teachers really are,” said Magallanes. She continued by expressing how amazed she was with the teachers she said, “They’ve made progress, baby steps, steps that many people never even bothered to make. They were passionate, rain or shine, they stayed outside and fought for their students, for their education.”
United Teachers Los Angeles stated that out of 600,000 students in the district, less than 70,000 students attended during the strike. Over 70,000 people gathered in the streets of downtown Los Angeles to join the teachers in striking.
“As a student, you can’t help but feel in awe of your teachers,” expressed Karla Perez. “They did this for us, for our education. Lots of teachers lost pay for standing out in the rain, but they didn’t care,” she laughed light-heartedly, nodding at the thought.
According to the article “LAUSD teachers’ strike ends. Teachers to return to classrooms Wednesday” by the Los Angeles Times, while the contract has been signed of increase in pay, teachers also lost about 3% of their salary by being on strike for six days.
Down in the streets of Gardena, at Peary Middle School sat Tony Tran, a history teacher for the magnet program for the middle school. Tran has been teaching at the school for 18 years. He smiles when speaking of the strike, finding pictures on his phone to show. His first ever strike, he said, “It was long but worth it.”
Tran was in awe of himself, adding, “Going into teaching… you know you’re not in it for the money, that’s the bottom line. You’re in it for the students.”
He continued to boast about his previous students; how children in the LAUSD district are more than a statistic, more than “C” average. How even the students who you think can’t make it, will make it, “You have to knock them down, and pick them up. As a teacher, you have to be the one to do that… that’s how you make them better”
All over the United States from Minnesota to Nebraska, to our next door neighbors in Nevada, to almost 3,000 miles apart in New York, teachers all over the U.S. showed their support in wearing red, including teachers at DVC.
Regina Flores said, “I think what they are doing is right, I’m inspired, and this country needs to start rethinking how we treat education.”
On Tuesday, January 22, the strike ended. A deal was made, a contract was signed. Teachers happily walked into their schools the next morning, some receiving a red carpet, balloons, cheers and hugs. After a week and a day-long strike, comprises were made; a drop of one student per class, a full-time nurse, a full-time librarian; it was comprise.
“It’s a compromise, you can never get everything you want,” said Tran. “It’s not perfect, but we don’t live in a perfect society. We just have to take what we can and that’s it. I’m just happy to be back.”