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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/27/19

The Winners and Losers of the LAUSD Strike

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"">The strike that nobody wanted is now behind us"

- Austin Beutner

For six days Los Angeles teachers and an overwhelming majority of students stayed out of LAUSD schools. Instead, many walked picket lines in front of the schools where supportive parents honked their horns and donated coffee. Tens of thousands attended rallies downtown, sometimes in the pouring rain. The resulting contract was approved by teachers, but not without some vocal apprehension as both teachers and parents wondered if enough was won for the sacrifice that was made. Who actually came out ahead in the final agreement and who lost?


LAUSD Students

As pointed out by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento, "class size reduction [has] 400% more impact [on student performance] than charters." Just on this factor alone, this contract is a great victory for students. The elimination of Section 1.5 from the agreement means that the District can no longer unilaterally ignore caps as mandated by contracts and the state education code. For years the LAUSD School Board has talked about reducing class size. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) finally forced them to act.

During the Great Recession, full-time nurses were pulled from schools and libraries were left dark. A decade later the funding had returned but not these vital services. As a result of this contract, every school will have a full-time nurse and every secondary school will have a librarian five days a week by the 2020-2021 school year. The return of these services is long overdue and an important victory for students.

LAUSD Parents

With this strike, LAUSD parents seemed to have found their voice. Started in the weeks before the strike, the Facebook page Parents Supporting Teachers grew to over 25,000 members. By overwhelmingly refusing to have their children cross the picket lines, they forced a successful end to the strike.

In order to build on the foundation of the teachers' contract, these parents need to stay engaged. One place to start is to demand greater access to School Board meetings.

LAUSD Teachers

While the raise teachers received is the same as the offer made before the strike began, it no longer contains qualifiers. The reduction in class sizes and the addition of support staff will help them do a better job of educating our students.

Board Member Scott Schmerelson

Schmerelson has struggled to find his voice after being relegated to the minority since the charter industry-backed Board Members took control of the School Board. He stuck his neck out with his opposition to the hiring of Beutner and the expansion of Granada Hills Charter High School but was unable to build any momentum. This seems to have changed with the strike. He was the first Board Member to speak out publicly in support of the teachers and was instrumental in channeling the public's support into action. By the last day of the strike, even charter industry-backed Board Member Kelly Gonez was walking the picket lines.

Charter Schools

While "the Board of Education will vote on a resolution calling on the state to establish a charter school cap and the creation of a Governor's committee on charter schools at the next BOE meeting", no real action was taken to curb the damages that charter schools inflict on the LAUSD. Part of the problem was that the Charter Cap demanded by UTLA was something that would have opened the District up to lawsuits by the California Charter School Association. Instead, they should have focused on ways to make sure that the District was enforcing current law. At the very least, this should have required that these publicly funded private schools stop the practice of cherry-picking students, prove that they are financially viable before opening for the school year and that a district representative is placed on the governing board of each charter school.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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