Email from Randi Weingarten, AFT President:
This week, I was on the picket lines at schools and in the streets of Los Angeles with thousands of educators, parents and students to stand in solidarity with the members of United Teachers Los Angeles, who are on strike.
It was cold. It was rainy. But the community has been out every day, strongly supporting UTLA’s demands: smaller class sizes; more nurses, counselors and librarians; and charter school accountability, so that public neighborhood schools are the priority.
No educator wants to go on strike. We go on strike when we are out of options and know our students need more.
After two years of bargaining with the district, UTLA members had no other choice. Superintendent Austin Beutner is sitting on a $2 billion reserve, and he just got $140 million more from the state, but he claims he doesn’t have the money to hire more librarians or school counselors. And the district gives charter schools more than $600 million a year, but Beutner doesn’t want to do anything to stop the unregulated growth of charters.
The math just doesn’t add up, and it’s clear that the superintendent doesn’t understand public education or the need of kids and those who teach them.
More than 50,000 people marched in the rain on Monday to stand up for public schools, and a similar number were rallying Tuesday for charter school accountability. And that’s just the beginning. A new Loyola Marymount University poll says 82 percent of the community supports striking teachers. Parents and kids are on the picket lines daily, talking about what their teachers need.
Everyone except the superintendent is willing to admit that public schools need more. California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a budget that includes additional dollars for special education, teacher pensions and some increases in per-pupil funding. And L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has agreed: It’s time to invest in existing schools, not siphon off money to build new ones.
The kids can’t wait. Now is the time in their lives to get the education they deserve. We can’t let our kids grow up thinking that this is normal, that underfunded public schools and unregulated charter schools are OK.
Students are bringing their teachers supplies, both for the picket line and for when they’re back in the classroom. Businesses are donating resources, and celebrities and politicians are standing up too, tweeting support and marching with us.
Together, we can make it clear to the superintendent that all across the country, people stand with L.A.’s teachers as they fight for the soul of public education.