About 40 teachers and their union president were arrested today when they sat down in the street outside the Los Angeles Unified School District's downtown headquarters to protest pending teacher layoffs.
"We're being arrested to send a message to the district and the city that they have the money ... parents are going to be upset when they go to school next year and classrooms are 50 and 60 kids," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, as he was being led away by police.
The protesters were arrested for blocking a public street, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer April Harding.
UTLA had called for a one-day work stoppage, but school district officials went to court Tuesday and won a restraining order that threatened to fine teachers and take away their teaching certificates if they walked off their jobs.
So instead of a full-blown walkout, the union organized one-hour rallies at various campuses before classes began. Dozens of teachers and supporters also gathered mid-morning outside the district's downtown headquarters, with about 40 sitting in the street as dozens of LAPD officers surrounded them.
Another rally is expected outside the district's headquarters after school is dismissed this afternoon.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said earlier he was pleased the union had agreed to abide by the court order and call off the one-day strike.
"We are united in our goal to educate our students," he said. "We have to start working together. A climate of us-versus-them hurts everyone, especially our students. I am committed to reaching out and personally working with Mr. Duffy to resolve any issues."
The school board voted last month to authorize thousands of layoffs, including teachers, to close an estimated $600 million budget deficit. The exact number of potential layoffs has been gradually lowering as district officials crunch numbers and offer early retirement packages to teachers and other employees.
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"Yeah, it's frustrating for everyone, not just teachers but for the students and our older colleagues as well," teacher Arturo Ortiz told CBS2.
Teacher Paolo Espiritu told the station he had already received a layoff notice and would likely be out of work at the end of June.
"It's something that really haunts me day to day, but today all I can do is really fight back and see what I can do, and, you know, spend every day as if it's my last with my kids," he said.