How Does a Strike Benefit Parents?

I’m an LAUSD mom. I have had two children go through the district and their experiences have been as different as you can imagine. My son had autism and needed special needs support. My daughter is gifted and works far above her grade level.

As I face the possibility of the strike I think about my own children. I was a single mom in poverty with my son. Any time I took off to care for him, whether it was justified or not, created stress at work. No one was there to take over my work. It also cost me jobs. It’s a different experience with my daughter. She has two parents. My husband has a steady job and I have had the privilege to leave my regular job to pursue a passion career. Which means, that staying home with my daughter during the strike will be an adventure to us. I’ll have to rearrange my day, and we’ll likely catch a movie and eat our weight in popcorn.

This doesn’t mean I’m in favor of the strike. As a person that’s been involved in the autism community for many years, I feel strongly about how special needs parents will have to shift their load to care for one, maybe two special needs children as well as the rest of their children. It is amazingly difficult to find a caregiver when your child has special needs. I can’t imagine how parents with more than one special needs child will be able to arrange care.

When I asked my husband about the strike, his opinion was strong. He said, “They are leveraging their legal obligation of parents to send their children to school in order to further their agenda. A strike requires minimal effort for teachers. They don’t show up. But for parents it’s maximum upheaval. Parents have to figure out ways to cover childcare and risk their jobs.”

I feel just as strongly. I’ve worked with families in need all my life. As a high school student, I worked for Migrant Ed. When I was in my late teens, I worked with severely impacted special needs children. When I was in my twenties, I worked as an elementary teacher (not LAUSD). In my thirties and forties, I’ve worked as a researcher trying to understand what families need. The families I work with are immigrants working minimum wage, trying to figure out how the systems in Los Angeles work.

These families are rich in love but poor in resources. They don’t always know how to access services and get their kids’ needs met. They don’t always know who to ask for help. My access to resources is one of the things that I know set me apart from many parents.

As a researcher, when I ask parents who they depend on to provide information, they always say schools. Schools are a safe space. Parents are more willing to share ideas and ask for what they need without the fear of being deported. They believe they can trust information when it’s provided by the school. Our parents trust this space. It is not only a source of information and support, it is also the entry point of civic engagement for many parents. Parents who are undocumented get to feel heard by being involved in schools.

Are teachers willing to pursue a strike in order to meet their needs? Are they willing to risk parents and parents’ needs? I don’t know. But it seems like a better solution is needed.

What do you think?

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Mireya Vela

Mireya S. Vela is a creative non-fiction writer and researcher in Los Angeles. In her work, Ms. Vela addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the (ongoing) injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. Ms. Vela received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitter College—and received her Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University in 2018. She is also a visual artist.

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