La Unified School District, Los Angeles, Kyle Stokes discussed on Morning Edition
Public school teachers in Los Angeles are expected to go on strike beginning this morning. This is going to impact nearly half a million public school students. This is the country's second largest school district. So a lot of kids will be affected, Los Angeles. Teachers have been working without a contract for more than a year. They've been grappling with the school district over salaries and classroom conditions one person covering this is Kyle Stokes from member station KPCC in Los Angeles. She joins us now from our studios NPR west morning. Kyle morning David negotiations. We're talking about toxic go back to early 2017 just reminded or teachers demanding and why has it been no breakthrough at all? Well, there's been a lot of a breakthrough because there's a really fundamental at fundamental issue at stake here, and that's how much money the LA unified school district even has to spend on the demands it's teachers are making the two sides can't even agree on that. So right now the school district has nearly two billion dollars in the Bank and the president of the teacher's union. United teachers, Los Angeles name is Alex Caputo Pearl says it's time to start spending that money to be hoarding two billion dollars in a school district that is more low income and more of color than just about any in the nation is a practice that must be challenged based on racial Justice ground. I mean, that's an extraordinary to say that the school district is hoarding money and not spending on spending that money to help students. What is what does the administration's reaction to that? Well, the school superintendent Austin beat near who who leads the school district does plan to spend some of that reserve on things like teacher raises and other demands. But he also says the district just cannot afford to spend much more the notion that we are ordering reserves the notion that more money exists somewhere else with which to do more is not accurate. We're spending all we have in service of our students and the teachers union just does not by this. The district has been making dire projections about its finances for years all while building up. This nearly two billion dollar reserve and between things like declining enrollment and things like rising pension costs. The district is still spending more money than it is taking in and that has regulators concerned about the district's longterm solvency so long way of saying that is the root cause of this dispute. If you can't decide how much. Money. There is to spend it's really hard to figure out what kinds of demands are reasonable. I mean, what one question that that always comes up in teacher strike is how much of this is about, you know, teachers wanting more money to help students and is some of it about getting more money for teachers higher salaries. Well, actually, the biggest sticking point here is actually been a plan to reduce class sizes. Now, that's a financial issue because having fewer students in classes means the need to pay more teachers in negotiations. The district has pledged to spend about one hundred thirty million dollars to reduce class sizes by a handful of students in certain grades. But that's not the only thing the union is asking for for years raising class sizes in LA has been used as an escape valve the district is used to solve its budget problems is language in the contract that.