What Our Teachers Have Done for Us

I’ve lived in California for most of my life and with that, I’ve attended school here as well. I’ve had the opportunity to attend three different types of schools: public, private, and charter. While the general experiences were different, I did notice the lack of resources the teachers had and the way all my teachers had to deal with this issue. I’ve noticed it since I started going to school and unfortunately, 21 years later, they still have to deal with this injustice. Fortunately, teachers took a stand and went on strike in the beginning of 2019. According to The New York Times, this was the eighth major teacher walkout over the past year, tens of thousands of teachers marched in downtown L.A. and picketed outside of schools for six school days. Although most schools remained open, attendance was low- less than a third of the students coming to school on some days. Each day of the strike had an estimated loss of about $10 to $15 million dollars because the district funding is linked to attendance. On the weekend, there were negotiating sessions.  

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The strike lasted for six days and fortunately, the teachers walked away with quite a few wins. It started on Monday, January 14 and teachers returned to the classroom this past Wednesday. According to “The New Yorker” more than 30,000 L.A. teachers went on strike. While the district tried to compromise with offering more money in the beginning, these teachers had a legitimate end-game in mind that would not only benefit them, but benefit their students and future teachers and students. It’s important to note that the initial offer the district had proposed for the teachers was a 6% raise, only. This raise is what the teachers settled for, but they continued the strike to get more benefits for their students. The problem with the public school funding really seems to stem from Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978. This measure shrunk the funding available for public schools by a quarter and in result, the Los Angeles Unified School District has fallen since then.

One of the issues that L.A. teachers brought to the forefront of the rally were charter schools and how they received their funding. Although charter schools do not have the same regulations as public schools, they are funded with public money. In result, students and their parents have been more attracted to charter schools, which leaves public schools with less students and even less funding. However the class sizes end up being from 45 to 50 students a class, which makes it difficult for teachers to dedicate attention to each student. This strike highlighted the question of whether charter schools hurt traditional schools with the competition for students and funding. Students and parents joined teachers in the strike and various protests and marches around L.A.

One of the problems people are having with the new deal is the amount of money it will cost. All of the changes are going to happen over the next three years, the district will have to come up with $403 million for the additional staff members. The state’s constrained school spending is because of the previously mentioned Proposition 13. This significantly limits the tax rates and makes an increases difficult to enact. Smaller, more affluent communities have the ability to raise money with local bonds or parcel taxes, which is next to impossible for poorer urban districts. According to The New York Times, there’s an effort for a 2020 ballot measure that aims to change the law to increase commercial property taxes, but not for homeowners.

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There are 34,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union and most of them were satisfied with the deal they have with LAUSD, according to CNN. These are what was included in the deal.

Smaller class sizes! Class in grades three and lower have a cap of 24 to 27. In the 2019-2020 school year, class sizes in grades 4-12 will be reduced by 1 as well as in the 2020-2021 school year. In the 2021-2022 school year, they will be reduced by 2

More nurses! Over the next two years, 300 school nurses will be permanently hired. In result, every LAUSD school will have a nurse!

More librarians. 82 librarians will be added to all secondary schools, which will allow middle schools and high schools to have a teacher-librarian.

Raises for teachers! There’s a combined 6% raise for teachers. Teachers had to settle for 6% raises instead of the 6.5%. Retroactively, there’s a 3% raise for the 2017-18 and a 3% raise for the current school year. According to The Atlantic, salaries were never a major sticking point in the negotiations, teachers had said that they “were striking as a last-ditch effort to improve the education of the nearly 500,000 children they serve.”

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Concession on standardized tests. Next year a committee will develop a plan to reduce the number of assessments by half.

There's also a resolution to cap the number of charter schools. There’s more than 1,100 charter schools in the state and roughly 20% of all L.A. students are enrolled in charter schools. Currently, California law currently allows 100 new charter schools to open each year.

According to NPR, there was also some mention of agreements about special education.

While the deal gave a lot to everyone, there’s still more work to do to improve the public education system and to give teachers the resources they need. We owe it to ourselves and our future to make an effort to support teachers and their movement to getting more benefit for their students. We’ve all been impacted by our teachers, we owe it to them to give them the benefits they deserve as well. These people have had a hand in raising us for years and they do it because they love it, they continued the strike to get benefits for us. Teachers are selfless and truly do have their students best interests in mind, isn’t it time for us, as their past students, to repay them?                                                                            Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash