"Privatizing forces have appropriated the language of civil rights and social-justice movements, while simultaneously gutting our schools of resources and selling our schools away to corporate-run charter companies."- Reclaim Our Schools LA
As noted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board members in their joint statement dated August 21, 2018, "students and their families will bear the brunt of a strike action." Many parents of the hundreds of thousands of students who attend district schools are scrambling to make arrangements for their children knowing that if schools remain open, LAUSD lawyers have admitted that "the health and safety of students" would be threatened and a normal academic program will be impossible to maintain. Students who depend on meals delivered by the schools are especially vulnerable as the district has not stated how these programs would be handled if schools are forced to close.
With this massive disruption at the doorstep of the district, our elected leaders have been mostly silent. Board members seem content to let Superintendent Austin Beutner do their speaking for them. That is, with the exception of Nick Melvoin, who has been eager to express his disdain for people who would actually teach as a profession instead of using the classroom as a bridge to law school. Given Beutner's lack of experience in education and his desire to privatize public education, this seems like a recipe for disaster.
Stakeholders in six of the seven board districts(*) may soon have an opportunity to find out where their board members actually stand on the issues that form the basis for the conflict between the district and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). The coalition Reclaim Our Schools LA has delivered a letter urging the board members "to settle the teachers' strike by using a substantial portion of LAUSD's $1.9-billion surplus" and agreeing to demands detailed in the Reclaim Our Schools LA's Give Kids A Chance education platform. These demands include investing in community schools, improving school safety, less testing and more teaching, and capping and regulating charter schools. They are also asked to leverage their "close ties with wealthy corporate elites to enlist their support for generating revenue for our public schools."
By agreeing to or rejecting the terms outlined in this letter, board members will have a chance to publicly take a stand on the issues. How many will break their silence?
(*) Board District 5 is currently unrepresented after Charter Industry favorite Ref Rodriguez was forced to resign after pleading guilty to a felony and the LAUSD Board refused to appoint a temporary replacement.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.