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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Teachers picketed outside the site of a historic desegregation and dozens of other Little Rock schools Thursday, walking out for the first time in more than three decades to protest the state’s control of the local school system and their loss of collective bargaining rights.

The strike in the 23,000-student district is the first in Little Rock since 1987 and follows the state Board of Education’s decision last month to strip the local teachers union of its bargaining power. Though billed as a one-day strike, union leaders are leaving open the possibility that it could stretch longer.

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“We know this is the first battle in a longer fight,” Little Rock Education Association President Teresa Knapp Gordon told reporters as teachers, students and parents waved signs and chanted outside Little Rock Central High School, which was desegregated by nine black students in 1957.

ASSOCIATED PRESS