Thousands of Striking Teachers Rally in Downtown Los Angeles

The school week closes with educators taking their case to city hall.

Tens of thousands of educators rallied in Grand Park on Friday for higher pay and more resources during strike in Los Angeles. Damian Dovarganes/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

On Friday, the fifth day of this year’s historic teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, an exodus of students, parents, teachers, and supporters flooded out of the nearby Metro station, and stomped onto the muddy greenery at Grand Park in downtown LA.

With the first hint of sunshine in days, the mood at Grand Park was light-hearted, with music and speeches blaring from a stage outside Los Angeles City Hall, even as tense negotiations trudged on between the United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District just steps away. Offstage, some parents watched on as their young children bounced around the park’s playground. The union estimated that more than 60,000 people attended the rally.

At one point, Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, strummed “This Land is Your Land,” shouting “see you all on the picket lines” before he left the stage, leaving UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl to pump his fist for the crowd.

Huddled with his colleagues, Mack Scott, a self-described product of Los Angeles schools, was recalling the last time there was a citywide strike in LA. In 1989, Scott worked at an elementary school in east Los Angeles when teachers went on strike for nine days. “Back then, if you were a teacher, you didn’t have automatic recess,” he says. “You had to do yard duty sometimes. Classes were big then, too.” But today, he says morale was higher among teachers.

Scott now works as a special education instructor at 52nd Street Elementary School, just south of the University of Southern California’s campus, and says the lack of support staffers at his school is hurting kids. “We have students who come from homelessness and foster care,” he says. “We have a lack of resources for them as far as psychiatric, social workers, or counselors.” He didn’t want to blame charter schools solely for problems in the district, but noticed that students from his elementary school now would leave to attend nearby charter schools but get sent back.

“Things have changed,” he added. “You’re putting so much emphasis on teachers with test scores and assessments, yet you also have to be social workers, psychologists, nurses—you have to do it all with the students. Which we do willingly because we love the students. But it shouldn’t have to be that way.”

After the rally settled, Elisa Mejia recalled how, as a teenager at Franklin High School, she was uninformed about the plight her teachers faced when they walked out of schools in 1989.

“Now, my kids know everything,” Mejia, a part-time adult education teacher, says decades later. For the last week, she’s mostly gone to the picket line at her son Kiniche and daughter Erendira’s school, Arroyo Seco Museum Science Magnet School in northeast Los Angeles, to support their teachers.

Mejia explained that, two years ago, she took her kids out of Sunrise Elementary in Boyle Heights because her daughter had gallbladder issues and needed more consistent access to medical care during the school day. Sunrise, she says, didn’t have a nurse available for more than one day a week, and her kids’ new school had one available for three days. One of the kids made a sign that read, “Being a teacher is revolutionary.”

Mejia’s 10th grade daughter Valentina stayed out of school this week, too, and walked the picket lines with her teachers at Ramon Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts. Mejia says her daughter struggles in her math class that has nearly 40 kids in it. “All these teachers are doing extra to meet the needs of their students. But can the district do extra?” Mejia asked.

This article has been revised. 

Share your experiences with us

If you’re a teacher in Los Angeles, or a parent with children who are affected by the strike, tell us about your experiences with LA schools in the form below. We may reach out to you or use your response for a follow-up story.

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate