Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike on Monday after 20 months of failed negotiations for higher pay, greater school funding and more support staff.
Unlike many of the teacher strikes that gripped red states in 2018, the LA strike pits the massive United Teachers Los Angeles union against the Los Angeles Unified School District, which runs public schools in the city of Los Angeles and many surrounding communities. The labor dispute reflects a bitter Democratic Party rift on education policy that splits unions and their allies from proponents of charter schools, whose influence on the LA school board has helped precipitate the strike.
A number of high-profile Democratic elected officials have nonetheless come out on the side of Los Angeles teachers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who announced her 2020 presidential campaign on Dec. 31, and Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who are expected to announce presidential bids soon.
Some of the U.S. House’s biggest progressive stars have also declared their support for the city’s teachers union, with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), as well as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (Calif.) tweeting their solidarity.
Even Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, a former secretary of labor, released a statement saying he stands with the striking teachers “fighting for the children they teach to have the resources they need to achieve and flourish.”
But other Democratic elected officials have been less eager to comment on the strike. In fact, some Democrats who want to diminish the clout of teachers unions, like former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, actually back the city’s school district against the union.
Of the 10 Democrats representing parts of the city of Los Angeles, Reps. Jimmy Gomez, Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff, Nanette Barragán, Ted Lieu and Tony Cárdenas have announced unequivocal support for the teachers union.
“For the first time in 30 years, teachers from the LA Unified School District are on strike, fighting for fair pay, smaller class sizes, and better resourced schools for our kids,” Schiff said in a statement to HuffPost. “When we fail to support our public school teachers, we fail our students too. I stand with our teachers every step of the way.”
“To every teacher on strike today, I am with you,” he added. “I urge both LA Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles to negotiate and reach a comprehensive agreement to end the strike for the benefit of families, children, and our teachers.”
Barragán cited the importance of her own education in LA public schools in explaining why she stood with teachers.
“It is crucial that we listen and acknowledge their concerns and pleas to address the inequalities and deficiencies that prevent members of [United Teachers Los Angeles] from serving our children to their fullest abilities,” she said in a statement to HuffPost.