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Thousands of teachers in Los Angeles protest over pay, class conditions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Thousands of teachers march past the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California, on Saturday, December 15, 2018. (AP photo)

Thousands of US teachers have rallied in Los Angeles, California, to demand higher wages and protest cuts to education funding in the nation's second-largest school district.

The teachers and their supporters wore red shirts, banged drums and carried signs that read "Stand With LA Teachers!" as they took to the streets on Saturday demanding a new contract.

The teachers union is threatening to go on strike next month for the first time in nearly 30 years as frustrations mount over more than 18 months of negotiations with Los Angeles Unified School District.

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles, a union representing Los Angeles teachers, rejected the latest contract offer last month.

The teachers union contends that the school district is hoarding a huge financial reserve that could be used to pay teachers more and improve conditions for students.

Union leaders also criticized a plan to reorganize the district by dividing it into 32 networks.

There has been no agreement despite three state mediation sessions, and the standoff is now in a fact-finding stage — the final step of a negotiation process under California state law.

School workers are also demanding smaller class sizes, more full-time nurses and librarians.

The district has said it's committed to bargaining in good-faith and providing teachers with better pay and support.

The district has more than 640,000 students in Los Angeles and 31 surrounding smaller cities.

Teacher walkouts this year have already occurred in the states of West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado. All have said that lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and fund schools.

It has been called the “Teachers’ Spring” in the United States, with educators staging an unprecedented wave of protests demanding increases in pay and school budgets.

The protests by the nation’s teachers mark the first statewide walkouts since the 1990s.

“It’s like the Arab spring, but it’s a teacher spring,” Toni Henson, a geography teacher, told the Guardian newspaper in May.

According to the National Education Association, a group representing public school teachers in the United States, the average teacher salary in the country decreased by four percent from 2008‒09 to 2017‒18, after inflation adjustment.

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