As L.A. Teachers Prepare to Strike, How Will Charter Schools Be Affected?
By Guest Blogger Sasha Jones
Educators at Los Angeles Unified School District's affiliated charter schools are expected to strike Monday with their traditional public school counterparts as a contract dispute remains unsettled.
LAUSD is the second-largest school district in the nation, serving 640,000 students. According to the California Charter Schools Association, there are 275 charters of various kinds serving an estimate of more than 120,000 students, according to LAUSD. Approximately one in five students in the district attends a charter school.
There are 50 affiliated charter schools in LAUSD, which are operated and governed by the district and are part of the current contract negotiations, meaning those teachers would participate in the looming strike. The United Teachers Los Angeles expects full participation in the job action from affiliated charter schools. (The district plans to keep its schools open, with administrators and substitutes providing instruction, during the strike.)
Charter school teachers can decide to unionize at the school level. Thirty-seven independent charter schools in LAUSD are unionized, with some being represented by UTLA.
The 225 independent charter schools in LAUSD operate as nonprofit organizations and are closely overseen by the district. Independent charter schools' contracts and budgets are not directly affected by the current negotiations.
UTLA announced that its members at three independent charter schools operated by The Accelerated Schools may participate in a separate strike Jan. 15 if an contract agreement is not reached. Educators at The Accelerated Schools are asking for better health benefits and more job protections. This would be the second charter strike in the nation, following Chicago's strike last December, which resulted in a victory for the union.
Meanwhile, co-located charter schools, which are on the same grounds or in the same building as a public school may be impacted as protests are expected to occur in front of such schools, although strikers cannot legally impede access to public school facilities. There are currently 74 charter schools co-located across 82 LAUSD sites. Some of them are independent charter schools, while others are affiliated and would be subject to a strike.
In addition to advocating for higher wages and smaller class sizes, UTLA hopes to stop the growth of charter schools, according to its 69 pages of demands presented to the school district in December.
The California Charter School Association released a statement in December responding to the UTLA's request.
"A cap on charter schools won't solve the financial challenges before L.A. Unified," the group wrote. "It will hurt the hundreds of thousands of kids who need great public schools the most, and the families who historically have struggled to access a free education that will help lift them up beyond their challenges and opens the doors of opportunity."