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Striking Los Angeles’ teachers take aim at charter schools

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 The growing number of charter schools in the Los Angeles County school system – and the school board’s support for them – is one of the most contentious issues in this week’s teachers’ strike in America’s second-largest school system.

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl last week accused district leaders of wanting “to starve our schools in order to justify cuts and justify handing more schools over to privately run charter schools.”

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School Superintendent Austin Beutner says that claim is baseless, but his supporters have strongly promoted charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.

A 2017 school board election that pitted teacher unions against charter school backers resulted in a pro-charter majority on the board.

About one in five Los Angeles students now attend charter schools, and their enrollment has continued to grow in the past decade while overall enrollment in the district has declined. The city now has more charter schools and more charter school students than any other school system in the country, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Most charter school employees are not unionized.

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At a rally on Tuesday, teachers from three charter schools joined the UTLA strike, the first time that has happened. The teachers at those three schools run by Accelerated Schools, are represented by the UTLA.

KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN
“What they’re demanding is basically fairness with other teachers in California, like having a voice and not being afraid of being fired the moment they use that voice on behalf of student needs or their own professional judgment,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Reuters. “They have an astronomical turnover rate.”

Thousands of protesters, many of them wearing red shirts and jackets in solidarity with their union, flooded the streets around the California Charter Schools Association in Los Angeles on Tuesday, chanting “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union.”

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Charter schools have grown in response to demand from parents for school options. The schools usually offer different approaches than traditional public schools, including programs that emphasize math, science or the performing arts, according to the California Charter Schools Association.

Nationwide, students at most charter schools perform about the same as their peers at traditional public schools, according to research from Data First at the Center for Public Education, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“However, research also shows that students in charter high schools score higher on college entrance exams and are more likely to graduate high school and attend college than similar students in traditional public schools,” it said.

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District officials have kept schools open in Los Angeles and will offer regular after-school programs, mindful that working-class parents cannot afford independent child care during the strike. The district has hired about 400 substitute teachers, a move the union has called “illegal.”

Many parents have expressed support for the teachers and only around a third of the affected half-million students are showing up at school.

Reporting by Bill Tarrant, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb; writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report

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Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.

The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.

But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.

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‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys

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In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.

"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.

The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.

"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."

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Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors

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A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.

The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.

"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.

The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.

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