Monday, January 20, 2020
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Yes, schools are open during the L.A. strike

Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District went on strike today, but the district’s 836 campuses, spread across 26 cities in Los Angeles County, remain open during the school day and for certain after-school programs, given the use of a skeleton staff of substitutes and non-certified personnel who are not engaged in sympathy strikes.

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Most of the district’s nearly half a million students are from low-income families and depend on school not only for learning but also for:

  • 2 or 3 meals a day at the district’s expense
  • Safety after school while their parents are still at work

School resource officers, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers will still be on the job in all the schools, and students are able to report to their school buildings for however long the strike lasts, the Los Angeles Times reports. Truancy officers will not enforce truancy during the strike, and some principals have indicated that absences during the strike will be considered unexcused. However, the Times noted that those unexcused absences during the strike would not have a negative impact on students’ records.

Many community centers, museums, libraries, zoos, and other sites are open during the strike for students whose parents choose not to send them to school during the strike. In addition, public transit is said to be providing free rides for students with IDs during strike days. But if you’re a high school basketball player, you should know that extracurricular activities have been cancelled during a strike.

The strike will take more than 30,000 teachers off the job starting on Monday, and the district has managed to secure about 2,000 substitutes and other staff members to supervise daily learning activities. At most schools, students will use Chromebooks (the district has instituted a 1:1 laptop program) for online learning and has told parents to send their students to school with reading material they can use when they finish online assignments.

In most cases, students who are in school during the strike can be expected to sit in large auditoriums, cafeterias, and other multi-purpose rooms in large groups all day due to the low number of adults who will be in the building. The district, however, doesn’t know how many parents will be able to keep their children home during the strike, so plans at most buildings are undoubtedly being created on a case-by-case basis.

Widespread teachers’ strikes last year in at least six states have produced an environment where teachers are largely receiving community support for the work they do. The strikes are generally viewed by community members as being good for students in the long run.

Among other issues in LAUSD, teachers are walking out because they say the district has not provided enough services and staff members for students. Class sizes are too big, they say, and not enough counselors, librarians, and school nurses are at the ditrict’s campuses. The district’s latest offer was rejected Friday, making a strike Monday all but certain, but district officials say they don’t have the money to provide the level of student services the teachers are fighting for.

Superintendent Austin Beutner said budget constraints limit the district’s ability to make the changes the teachers are requesting. New salary proposals from the union would spend $130 million on about 1,200 positions, he said. Also, the latest offer from the district put forth the same salary increase as the one already rejected: 6 percent spread over the first two years of a three-year contract; teachers are asking for 6.5 percent that would be retroactive to a year earlier.

The union has failed to negotiate in earnest, he added, the Times reported in an earlier story. He said meeting all the union’s demands would cost $3 billion and plunge the district into bankruptcy, which would prompt a state takeover. “Show me the money, because we’re spending all we’ve got,” the paper quoted him as saying. “If UTLA can find more money, we’ll invest it in the classroom.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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