(AP) – Teachers picketed and rallied Friday as a strike against the giant Los Angeles Unified School District entered its fifth day with a new round of contract negotiations underway.
Drums, whistles, shouts and honks from supportive motorists echoed through downtown as groups of teachers and backers walked to a rally at Grand Park near City Hall.
Negotiations between United Teachers Los Angeles and the district were set to resume before noon. The talks organized by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office began Thursday afternoon and ended after midnight.
“Bargaining teams from UTLA and LAUSD had a productive day of contract negotiations,” the mayor’s office said in brief statement.
The mayor does not have authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District but has sought to help both sides reach an agreement.
Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl earlier tempered expectations for an immediate resolution, noting that bargaining had gone on for 21 months before the strike and key differences remained.
Clashes over pay, class sizes and support-staff levels in the district with 640,000 students led to its first strike in 30 years and prompted the staffing of classrooms with substitute teachers and administrators.
Parents and children have joined the protests despite heavy rain that drenched the city. Overall attendance fell to 83,900 students on Thursday.
With state funding dependent on attendance, student absences cost the district about $97 million over four days, the district said. At the same time, it doesn’t have to spend about $10 million a day on teacher pay.
The union representing principals urged LA Unified to close schools until the strike is over. If the district can’t close the campuses, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles asked for additional resources for principals who have helped keep schools running while teachers walk picket lines.
In response, Superintendent Austin Beutner acknowledged the administrators’ sacrifices but said LAUSD schools must remain open to provide a safe place for students.
All 1,240 K-12 schools in the district were open – a departure from successful strikes in other states that emboldened the LA union to act.
The union rejected the district’s latest offer to hire nearly 1,200 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians and to reduce class sizes by two students. It also included a previously proposed 6 percent raise over the first two years of a three-year contract. The union wants a 6.5 percent hike at the start of a two-year contract.
District officials have said teacher demands could bankrupt the school system. Beutner has urged the teachers to join him in pushing for more funding from the state, which provides 90 percent of the district’s money.
AP reporter John Antczak contributed to this report.