The nation’s second largest public school system will be shuttered starting Monday as the Los Angeles teachers’ union will go on strike.
Middle of the school year? Who cares. The teachers sure don’t.
Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said that unless district officials send over a significant new proposal, 31,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors will be walking picket lines Monday. He said no district proposal has hit the mark yet, including a new one offered — and promptly rejected — Friday afternoon.
“Get ready,” Caputo-Pearl said late Friday afternoon at a news conference outside district headquarters. “Because on Monday we will go on strike for our students, for our schools and for the future of public education in Los Angeles.”
Friday marked the week’s third negotiating session, and the district upped its offer based on the expectation of new money from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget.
The union wants more members and higher pay for teachers.
The latest offer would provide a full-time nurse at every elementary school and lower class sizes by about two students at middle schools. It builds on a proposal from Monday, in which the district also offered a small decrease in class sizes.
In that first proposal, maximum class sizes in grades four to six would drop from 36 to 35, and in high school from 42 to about 39. Schools with the greatest needs would see larger reductions — about four students per class. Also, every secondary school would get a librarian, which some middle schools lack now. And high schools would get an extra academic counselor.
The question isn’t so much whether these demands necessary. They may very well be. The question should be whether they are enough to justify throwing the city into chaos.
“Every nickel that we’re receiving, we’re investing in our classrooms,” Beutner said in a news conference that was called for 2:15 p.m., with about 20 minutes’ notice. “This is not a conversation about values. We want the same sorts of things.”
Caputo-Pearl disputed both those assertions — about what the district can afford and about the shared values. He noted that the district’s offers were limited to one year, after which class sizes could balloon upward again and new staff could be cut. He also criticized the proposed class-size reductions as piecemeal and paltry, saying the district could afford to do much better.
Is it that the district can “afford to do much better” or is it that L.A. taxpayers can do better? After all, that’s the real issue. Teachers may be negotiating with people who run the school system, but their ultimate negotiating partners are the taxpayers of L.A. County.
If the schools were performing adequately, one might be inclined to grant the union their requests. But they’re not. Some of the worst schools in the city are among the worst in the state and California ranks 10th from the bottom nationally.
Single parents who work or families where both parents are employed will be hard-pressed to find child care for their children. In other school strikes during the middle of the year, it was found that some parents couldn’t afford to stay home to take care of their children and left them unattended. Others missed work and were docked pay for it.
This is the purpose of the strike, of course. Adults will put pressure on the school district, which will then give in to teacher demands.
And taxpayers will foot the bill.