Parents of about 13,000 kids attending LAUSD’s California State Preschool Programs and Early Education Childhood Centers are scrambling to find childcare before Monday after learning that 180 LAUSD preschools will close during a teachers strike to all children except those in special education.
“If the teachers strike, we will not be able to adhere to the teacher-child ratios specified by the state’s Department of Social Services, which licenses the centers,” said an LAUSD spokeswoman, who advised parents to check a list of the schools here. The closures are “for the safety of our students,” added Dean Tagawa, executive director of LAUSD’s Early Childhood Education Division.
UTLA has threatened to have teachers walk off the job Monday, Jan. 14 unless a deal is reached, and a court on Thursday confirmed that the strike date was legal. The news of preschool closures came as a shock to parents who had been told that all LAUSD schools would remain open during a strike.
“It’s really hard,” said former Board District 5 candidate Justine Gonzalez, Speak UP’s Parent of the Month, whose daughter attends one of the early educations centers that will close. “I have to work to pay my bills. I have to pay my rent. I thought I would at least have the option to send her if our family needed to.”
LAUSD is making an exception for children who attend preschool Collaborative Classrooms and other preschool programs for kids with special needs. Those kids will be able to attend from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The District is “assigning Central Office staff for these programs to ensure that students’ services remain seamless at our schools should a strike occur,” Tagawa said.
But the closures put many parents in a precarious position. The preschool programs primarily serve low-income working parents who could lose their jobs if forced to take time off of work to care for their kids for days or weeks during a strike. Once again, the most vulnerable kids and families will suffer the most.
“It’s scary,” said Gonzalez, who has no idea what she will do with her daughter if the teachers walk out. “This is a need-based program [serving] young working parents, for the most part. These are folks who need it because they work and can’t afford other options.”
Governor Gavin Newsom did provide families a glimmer of hope that a strike could be averted. News of the preschool closures came just as he released his proposed state budget, which included a much-needed increase in funding for education. Newsom proposed $3 billion in one-time pension relief for school districts, as well as $750 million in one-time funds to expand the number of full-day kindergarten classes and $576 million to expand special education services.
Even though the budget has to be approved by the state legislature and won’t be adopted until June, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner committed to making a new offer to United Teachers Los Angeles on Friday featuring larger class size reductions based on the governor’s proposal.
“The state's giving us a few more nickels," said Beutner, who had traveled to Sacramento Wednesday, along with Board President Monica Garcia, to ask for more funding to help avert a strike. "We'll make sure those go right into the classrooms."