Los Angeles teachers stage 1-hour walkout

/ Source: The Associated Press

Teachers hoisting protest signs and yelling into bullhorns skipped class Friday in the nation's second-largest school district to protest a state budget they contend will cost their district $353 million and lead to cutbacks.

Many of the 48,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District spent the first hour of their school day on the sidewalks outside their campuses. The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, estimated most teachers were taking part, although district officials said they had no immediate figures.

"Our preliminary reports are that tens of thousands of teachers and thousands and thousands of parents have joined picket lines," union president A.J. Duffy said.

The protests ended peacefully and there were no arrests, police said.

The teachers demonstrated against a proposed budget by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would increase state education funding by $193 million next year. The 2007-08 state education budget was $56.6 billion.

The district says that despite the increase it will face a $353 million shortfall because the funding does not take into account increases in the cost of living and because the education budget reduces special funding for some programs.

The state is facing an overall $15.2 billion budget deficit.

"The governor is just as frustrated as the teachers are with the broken budget system," said Aaron Mclear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger. "He hopes they reconsider this action. LAUSD will be better served by having teachers in their classrooms."

Docking pay
The district said teachers would be docked an hour's pay for the missed classes. Luther Burbank Middle School mathematics teacher Godfrey Awuchi said it was worth it.

"When you cut the budget, you are cutting programs and you're cutting quality of life for the future," he said.

The union said the cuts could endanger sports, arts, music and magnet programs. It also said probationary teachers — those in their first year — were likely to be laid off in efforts to make up the anticipated shortfall in state funding.

The Los Angeles Unified School District had hundreds of administrators and other staff watch children, although no instruction took place, officials said.

The 710-square-mile district has more than 694,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.