Schools Lose Millions A Day During Strike With No End In Sight

Students at Vista Middle School on day two of a teachers strike

Students at Vista Middle School on day two of a teachers strike

After losing $15 million in attendance revenue the first day of the teachers strike Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner called on United Teachers Los Angeles to join him at the table and in lobbying the state to provide the funding needed to end the labor impasse.

“We need our educators back in our classrooms,” Beutner said. “I’m not going to shut the schools. Shutting schools leaves those children out in the rain, leaves them without a warm meal, leaves them without a path, without a promise…We have to resolve this now.”

Attendance was up 13 percent Tuesday, with 163,384 kids going to school without their teachers.

United Teachers Los Angeles has refused to return to the negotiating table since talks broke down Friday, despite pleas from LAUSD parents and an assist from the County Board of Supervisors, which approved some additional funding Tuesday for mental health and nursing at Los Angeles schools.

Instead, UTLA spent the day picketing at the California Charter Schools Association to push for a cap on the number of charter schools, even though that’s not a legal part of the contract bargaining process. Some parents who wanted to support the teachers on the picket line were furious at the assault on public charter schools. One UTLA teacher whose own child attends a charter school posted on Facebook that she declined to participate in the rally.

“I am standing up to improve their school conditions and give them better opportunities for health and learning,” she said. “As for the anti-charter talk, I detest it.”

CCSA President and CEO Myrna Castrejon praised LAUSD teachers for focusing “much-needed and overdue attention on the need to increase resources for all California public schools.”   

The state controls funding for education, and CCSA is planning a rally at the State Capitol on March 13, in part to demand more funding for all California public schools.  

Students are working in large groups, but at least at some schools, they were learning.

Students are working in large groups, but at least at some schools, they were learning.

“We should be marching together in Sacramento demanding increased statewide funding for our most vulnerable students,” Castrejon said. “What unites us is so much more powerful than what divides us, and has more potential to improve kids’ lives. Our state’s public schools are in desperate need of greater investment and support.”  

Beutner has reached out to the governor for help in ending the school crisis, and he also addressed comments from Mayor Eric Garcetti suggesting that LAUSD might take a “hop of faith” and spend a little more on programs it may not be able to afford, in hopes that it will attract more enrollment to LAUSD. Garcetti has no authority over LAUSD schools.

“This isn’t about faith and hope. This is about reality,” Beutner said. “If Mr. Garcetti wants us to take that leap of faith, perhaps the City can backstop it. So if more money does not show up, maybe the City will provide the difference. But we’re bound by law to work under the guidelines and the funding that we have from the state…The responsible thing to do and the lawful thing to do is do what the regulators have told us we can do, to only spend the money we have.”

Parents, principals, staff and students slogged through day two of a strike that threw their routines into chaos. At Vista Middle school in Panorama City, more than 40 percent of the students attended school Tuesday, up from 30 percent Monday, according to Principal Joe Nardulli. About a dozen parent volunteers showed up to help. 

Eighth graders worked on a trivia quiz game about Martin Luther King in the library, while kids worked on laptops examining an article titled “What’s missing in music” in the room usually used for detention. Sixth graders played soccer in the gym. Kids spent about an hour and half in each rotation.

Seventh grader Karen Hernandez expressed “shock” at how calm things were at her school and that learning was actually happening.  She worked on math worksheets Monday and used a differentiated software program called Achieve3000 Tuesday.

Cecilia Posadas has two kids at Roscoe elementary and one child with special needs at Stonehurst Avenue elementary. She sent all three kids to school Monday, but decided to keep the two typically developing kids home from Roscoe Tuesday. “They’re just playing,” she said. “They’re watching movies. There’s no learning going on right now.”

She was also under the impression from her teachers that keeping kids out of school would end the strike quicker. In reality, it deprives schools of funding and may make it even harder for LAUSD to meet teachers’ demands.

Beutner on Tuesday emphasized the need for more state funding to end the strike. Instead of the widely used union hashtag #redfored, “How about #greenfored?” Beutner asked. “Show me the money.”