With net losses at the district topping $75 million Friday, the union representing LAUSD principals – who have borne the brunt of running schools and supervising kids with skeleton staffs all week – called for an end to the teachers strike, saying UTLA’s demands would “castrate” principals.
“The time has come for the strike to be settled and for teachers to return to the classroom immediately, if not sooner,” Associated Administrators of Los Angeles wrote in its weekly newsletter. AALA also said UTLA’s demands would “usurp” control over school decision-making from principals, including all school expenditures.
“AALA is vehemently against UTLA’s proposals to castrate the little to almost no decision-making authority principals currently have," AALA wrote. “Great schools do not exist apart from great leaders. AALA must go on record petitioning the District to protect the little autonomy principals and assistant principals currently have," or it will become "nearly impossible to meet the needs of the students."
As a day of bargaining at the mayor’s office proceeded with no resolution in sight, Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) released an almost panicked statement on social media, indicating that perhaps LAUSD should just give UTLA what it wants to end the strike – even though it would result in insolvency.
“I can no longer take the suffering that is taking place by everyone that has been disrupted by this work stoppage,” Vladovic said. “Therefore, I have decided that the District should do anything reasonable to settle these contract demands…Without the support of our Legislature, the Governor, and our labor partners, this District may cease to exist due to bankruptcy, jobs may be lost; and at that stage, I wish whoever succeeds me on the Board of Education has the necessary solutions to address this crisis.”
As those in charge fretted over finding a solution, UTLA members rallied with celebrities downtown. And while LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) called on teachers to end their strike, UTLA was scheduling more protest actions for Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Too many students are missing out on the education they should be getting,” Beutner said. “We need to solve this now. We need our educators and our students back in school come Tuesday morning.”
The strike has created some deep divisions between parents from district and charter schools who support school choice, and those who have lapped up UTLA’s anti-choice rhetoric about “privatizers” causing the district’s financial woes. (Pro-choice parents point to the massive retiree pensions and healthcare liabilities as the main drain on district finances.)
The walkouts have also broken friendships between educators and created wounds that may be lasting. Substitute Victoria Brauchitsch has faced tremendous hostility for her decision to help supervise kids during the strike.
“I tried to build a bridge today with three of the teachers that seem to be stalking me as I leave,” she said. “I said to them, ‘I know you all are mad at me, but we all miss you.’ One of the teachers started pointing her finger vigorously at me and said, ‘We’re not mad. You’ve just lost the respect of every teacher at Monte Vista.’ Not a single one of those teachers knows my story, and in all the righteous indignation, they have lost the ability to consider anyone else’s circumstances.”
Meanwhile, parents – who have been bending over backwards to show support for their teachers -- were also growing weary of the strike by week’s end. “I’m just praying my kid will be back at school Tuesday,” one mom told Speak UP.
Beutner vowed to do all he could to make that happen. “The onus is on us as leaders to do what we have to do. We have to solve it. I don’t look at is as an optional exercise. We have to solve it, unfortunately, with the resources we have.”
LAUSD’s non-voting student member, Tyler Okeke, also weighed in. “I have had the opportunity to understand in great depth the District’s financial constraints, which are only magnified by an aging workforce, a steadily increasing cost of living, and not enough state dollars going toward public education,” he said. In order to have “a peaceable contract agreement, concessions on both sides will have to be made.”
Beutner and Garcia tried to balance their concerns for families and kids with praise for the activism that has galvanized widespread community support.
“The students, families, employees and communities of Los Angeles Unified have been through a challenging week. Our teachers have been out in the rain. Our principals and employees have worked tirelessly to keep our schools open. And families have made the adjustments,” Garcia said. “At the same time, it has been a truly inspirational week. Public education is now at the forefront of the conversation of this city and the state... We have seen a tremendous amount of passion in the streets and in the schools.”
The activism, Garcia said, “cannot end. It must not end -- The strike, however, it does need to end.“
After spending half the day in talks himself, Beutner said it was clear that what UTLA was asking for goes beyond the bounds of the current contract negotiations. It’s become more of a conversation about the kinds of schools we’d like to see for our kids – a larger vision that will require more funding from the state.
“Do we want more in our schools? The answer is heck yes,” Beutner said. “We don’t have the money to do everything … If this carries on and we can’t find a resolution, we’re going to continue to reach out to leadership not just in the city, but across the state. We’re going to have to look for statewide solutions, statewide leadership. Because we need it solved.”