What Does The LAUSD Teacher Strike Really Mean?

Strikes, they happen right? After the UC-wide strikes of last spring and this past fall of 2018, the nonchalant attitude UC students have towards the recent Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher Strike isn’t surprising in the least. However, the strike isn’t as unrelated to us as we may think. 

The United Teachers Los Angeles, a union, started the strike on Monday January 14, 2018 in the midst of heavy rain and flooding. Involving more than 30,000 educators, the strikers called for increased wages, smaller class sizes and more support staff, such as school nurses, counselors and librarians. All employees who participated in the strike did so without pay, and have been doing so since Monday. 

Despite the absence of so many teachers in the second-largest school district in the country, all the schools remained open with slim administration staff, substitutes and other teachers not affiliated with the union. Perhaps due to the scant staff or perhaps in solidarity with their teachers, student attendance has been incredibly low. In fact, many students and parents have also joined the strike in support of teachers. Since the district is mostly funded from federal money based on attendance, the district has lost $97 million through Thursday. 

Since we are all in college, many people may think that this strike has nothing to do with us, but it is not so. If you have a younger sibling, cousin or other attending school in the LAUSD, this directly affects them. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. In fact, a study monitoring adolescents aged 13 to 18 from 2001 to 2004 said that around 49.5% of adolescents had a mental disorder. 

Mental health is becoming an increasingly concerning issue around the country, and many psychologists believe that they often start during childhood. With this major concern right before us, low-staffed schools with few full-time counselors aren't doing anything to help the current situation. 

It is undeniable that teachers play an important role in the growth of children as students, as productive individuals and as adults, especially elementary school teachers who are ever present during a child’s developmental years. Of course, that is not to say that we can expect the district to pull money off a tree. 

Recently, L.A. Unified offered to hire 1,200 new teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, and to increase the pay by 6% within two years of a three-year contract. They even said they would reduce class sizes by two students. However, the union denied this proposal, advocating for a 6.5% pay increase at the start of a two-year contract, and asking for teachers to have more say in school and district policy. 

Some say this strike, the first in 30 years, is a direct pushback from the increase of charter schools, which receive federal funding but operate privately. The main support for charter schools is that they allow children to learn in more innovative programs and give parents more options. However, the push for charter schools during former President Obama’s administration has greatly decreased. 

Of course, where the district is expected to find the money to fix these issues is the most imperative question at hand. The union claims that the district has more than enough money in reserve to meet their demands, but the district has also said that the $1.8 billion in reserve has already been allocated for spending in the next three years. They think that the teachers will possibly bankrupt the district. 

Whether or not you support the union or the district, one thing must be recognized: the United States education system is underfunded, understaffed and, many say, underperforming. Many children are left behind in the pipeline of education, passed along grade after grade, and for some college isn’t even a question. As college students who performed well enough in our K-12 years, we were all fortunate enough to be accepted to a university. Considering the increasing population of today’s world, the competition is fierce. The young people of today need all our help to succeed, so can we really turn a blind eye to the half a million students affected by this strike?