I have literally written and rewritten this piece several times over the course of the last couple of weeks. I’ve been sitting on this because I wanted to wait and see what was going to happen and how this was going to play out even after the vote. I was hoping for a reasonable outcome between the LAUSD (the second largest school district in the country) and UTLA (the teachers union). Of course, as we all now know, that has not been the case. The teachers held a vote to authorize a strike and the school district filed a lawsuit against UTLA citing “bad faith” or as we say in Spanish..mala fe! So what’s the real story? La Comadre is going to run several stories related to all the moving parts of this saga, but I wanted to give my humble opinion on what I think of the threat to strike.
By the way, the picture above lists the reasons to strike. Clearly stated in their strike gear. What is listed as the second reason? Aha, pay attention here, REGULATION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS. Hmmm. I looked through the 400 page contract and could not find that to be a violation of the contract. But there it is…and that my comadres is the real reason for this strike.
When I first heard that UTLA voted to strike, I guess I was a little surprised. I didn’t want to believe that so many teachers would collectively get together and say, “Yes, we want to walk out on our students in the name of retaliation and vengeance because the Board of Education appointed a superintendent that the leaders of UTLA did not approve of and fear will drastically change the district.” I really wanted to believe that teachers would not fall for the leaderships phony causes when in fact it is all political and ego driven. Caputo-Pearl seems to have decided the day Austin Beutner was hired as Superintendent that he would lead the membership down this destructive, costly, and counterproductive road. And, oh yes, it will cost everyone! All that money the teachers are asking for that doesn’t exist is about to go deeper into the negative if there is a strike.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some instances where a strike is necessary, and it’s true that sometimes working conditions are so bad that there is little or no other option but to strike, but I don’t believe that to be the case here. I believe that this particular vote was wrongfully put to the teachers to vote on because it’s based on something other than negotiation, contract violations and/or poor working conditions. This is based on pure unadulterated hatred toward charter schools and the accountability that they represent to the currently failing traditional schools in the district. If we can be really honest with ourselves here, let’s just admit once and for all that the success of some of these charter schools puts the traditional schools to shame.
I have said repeatedly in several pieces that I have written, and I will repeat it here once again, California, among other states in the union, has compulsory public education, which means that state law mandates parents to enroll their children in school. There is no option. As a parent, you must enroll your child in school or you can be fined or imprisoned and if you do not enroll and regularly take your kids to school. Having said that, it is, in my opinion, completely irrational that children and parents do not have the right to decide whether and where they go to school when the adult employees are not beholden to the same standard. It seems to me that if you are a teacher you are there on your own volition, that you were there because you want to be, that you are teaching because that’s what you’ve chosen to do not because state law has mandated you to be there and not because the state law is forcing you into that classroom every single day whether you like it or not. You, as a teacher, have an opportunity to say, “I do not like the way I’m being treated here, and therefore I will leave the district.” These children do not have that option!
I’m convinced more than ever now that this move to strike is something based on the leadership at UTLA not wanting to help the leadership of LAUSD be in any way, shape or form successful in helping to turn schools around. This doesn’t have anything to do with the things that they are feeding the teachers, and it’s not even the teachers fault. This is a case of Stockholm syndrome on steroids. All UTLA is good for is telling teachers how badly they are being treated all the time and how bad things are for them and how terrible it is that they’re asked to do anything and that it’s all because of charter schools. I’m sorry, but have any of you ever looked at their 400 page contract? It is completely ridiculous. For example, check out the “seniority” formula, which has nothing to do with seniority:
6.2 District Seniority Number: The seniority number for each employee includes a six digit number representing the year, month and day (660912 = September 12, 1966) on which the employee began probationary employment. The date of probationary employment shall be the actual beginning date of the probationary assignment and not any date of a substitute or temporary assignment which was later deemed to be probationary service for purposes of acquiring permanent status. Each number is followed by a five digit random number. Such random number consists of the last four digits of the employee’s Social Security number reversed followed by the sum of the two preceding numbers. When such sum is two digits, the second digit is used. The combination of the date number and random number provides the seniority number. When comparing two employees with the same employment date, the employee with the smaller employment number is deemed to be the senior. Seniority numbers are a matter of public record. The following employees with no seniority number shall be ranked by seniority based upon first date of contract service within their employment status and then employment status shall be ranked as follows: Provisional are to be deemed least senior, then Temporary Contracts, then University/Individualized Interns. Ties will be broken within status by establishing a tiebreaker number for each employee, using the same method as is used for District Seniority Number.
Or the fact that the contract allows for some teachers, who have worked in the district for 10 years or more to have evaluations waived for up to five years!!! Really? Don’t we as parents want our teachers regularly evaluated? I know I do. More importantly, don’t teachers as professionals, who are lobbying for higher pay to reflect professionalism, want to be evaluated? I guess not. There’s a lot to digest in that 400 page plus document. Interestingly, the section on discipline and arrest of teachers is the shortest section of the contract.
Some of the things in this contract are just outlandishly petty and/or unacceptable! How can reasonable men and women who devote their lives to helping children read these things in the contract and agree to them? I don’t understand. A lot of it isn’t even in their best interest (and I’m literally laughing as I write that). How in the world can they be so brainwashed and believe such bullshit from the leadership?
UTLA exemplifies why many people have lost or are losing faith in public unions. This is also why I think it highly hypocritical to shame philanthropists who support candidates for school board when the union itself spends millions on propaganda and elections.
There is no doubt that we could do better by our teachers, I fully agree and I fully understand because I was a teacher and I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have an impacted classroom. I know what it’s like to be using supplies, books and materials that are not long for this world. I know what it’s like not to have any extra funding for the extras that kids with special needs and English Learners need. I get all of that! But I also have the unique added perspective of having also been the school board member, and I’ve also been the parent, and I also have been the Advocate. I have seen the education system through various angles and lenses, so I have seen the good and the bad. I’ve seen the ugly, and I’ve seen the oppression and systemic racism that permeates and goes unchecked. I’ve seen it all. I’ve sat at the table and negotiated with teachers, and I have seen the ugliness of the unions, and I can tell you that there are so many people who think and feel as I do but are afraid to say so for fear of political retribution, but I don’t have that same fear. And I am free to be brutally honest about these folks and how they do not always represent what teachers are…absolutely they do not. They often represent greed and unabashed protections of teachers that they know are doing awful things to kids in the classrooms.
Among the ugliest of things they do is display a blatant disconnect from the students in our schools. Of course, after all, it’s not their job to care about kids. Their job is to care about the teachers even if it means throwing the kids under the classified bus. I get that, but the extreme to which they don’t care about kids is truly disgusting. It should be hard pressed for any school board to honestly refute that truth.
Teachers should not strike. Teachers cannot say in one breath that they want to be treated like doctors and lawyers and other professionals and in the next breath say that they want to be able to walk out on students. A doctor would not leave a dying patient on a table in the emergency room, and an attorney is not going to leave their client alone in a courtroom. Teachers must think about what they are asking for and be credible advocates for elevated professionalism.
Teachers should demand that union leadership sit down at the table and negotiate and figure out a way without bankrupting the system to help serve not just the teachers but the students of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Go ahead and send me hate mail. I will take whatever I need to take on behalf of the students and parents who have no voice and no choice about what educational situation they find themselves in.
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