Kate Gibson, CBS News:
Thousands of teachers in Los Angeles, the second-largest school system in the U.S., are poised to go out on strike in a reprise of the wave of school work stoppages that affected a number of U.S. states last year.
Barring an eleventh hour end to the contract dispute, more than 30,000 educators could stay out of the classroom as soon as Monday, affecting the city’s roughly 480,000 public school students.
The teachers in Los Angeles want higher wages and more staff to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, echoing demands made by educators in four states that staged mass walkouts in the spring of 2018. Beginning in West Virginia in February and followed soon after by walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina, teachers were able to rally public support, with lawmakers in some states partially reversing course on years of cutbacks to education.
“The bigger picture was legislatures giving huge tax breaks to gas and oil while cutting funding over a 10-year period to education even as [the number of] pupils increased,” Sylvia Allegretto, an economist with the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor & Employment, told CBS MoneyWatch. Many states never made up from their pullbacks during the recession, she added.
As with many states around the U.S., California slashed its education budget during the recession. Since then, the state’s per pupil funding has increased more than 23 percent over the last five years, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Still, as of 2015 (the most recent year for which national data is available), California’s per pupil spending of $10,786 was 13 percent below the national average of $12,346…
After declining for years, the number of strikes, work stoppages and other labor actions is on the rise. A government count identified seven major work stoppages in 2017, meaning those involving at least 1,000 workers (The Department of Labor will release a new tally in February.) But workers in education, health care, telecommunications and other industries staged much larger walkouts last year, a sign of renewed activism by unions and other labor advocates.
“There is more and more engagement and support from a broader slice of workers across the country,” Allegretto said. She attributes the trend in part to stagnating wages, declining employee benefits and lack of control over one’s schedule that are now issues for many Americans.