Los Angeles teachers strike for higher pay, 640,000-student system shuts

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – More than 30,000 Los Angeles teachers demanding higher pay walked off the job in the second-largest U.S. school system on Monday, union officials said, leaving hundreds of thousands of students in limbo,

About 640,000 students arriving on Monday for classes at some 900 campuses in the Los Angeles County School District were met by teachers carrying picket signs and rallying in the rain for higher salaries, increased staff and smaller classes.

Videos posted on Twitter by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), showed teachers and others marching with picket signs outside of a local public school chanting.

“You can’t put students first if you put teachers last,” the UTLA union posted on Twitter late on Sunday.

No formal talks were held over the weekend, dashing hopes of an 11th-hour deal between the teachers union and the school district.

Talks broke down on Friday, when union bargaining chair Arlene Inouye said she and her fellow negotiators were “insulted” by the latest contract offer from district officials.

The union wants a 6.5 percent pay rise, more librarians, counselors and nurses on campuses, smaller class sizes and less testing, as well as a moratorium on new charter schools.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)