Bracing the pounding rain, the teachers abandoned their classrooms and the country’s largest education system, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), to carry picket signs for the first times since the 1990’s.
“It’s an existential battle for the future of public education,” teacher Mike Finn told Reuters outside John Marshall High School in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz.
The movement has gained additional support from social media with hashtags such as, "#UTLAnow, #UTLAStrong, #UTLAStrike.
One organization, Black Lives Matter at School, countered this claim, saying, "It is no coincidence that the cities and districts most targeted for divestment in public education and investment in privatization are communities with majority Black and Brown students and families," the group said in a statement.
Despite the loss of thousands of teachers, the schools remained open and serving the primarily working-class community, staffed with administrators and substitute teachers, district officials assured.
Earlier this month, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) warned they would strike in the city's 900 public schools if an agreement with the LAUSD was not reached before then.
The union is calling for a 6.5 percent pay raise, more librarians, counselors and nurses on campus, smaller class sizes, less testing, and a moratorium on new charter schools.
The district has countered with a proposed 6 percent salary hike with back pay and a $100 million investment to hire more staff and decrease class sizes.
Talks broke down on Friday evening with union leaders saying they were “insulted” by the latest offer from district officials. The two sides did not meet over the weekend.
In a statement Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “This impasse is disrupting the lives of too many kids and their families. 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 walkout marks the latest in a wave of teachers’ strikes across the United States over pay and school funding, including job actions in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona.