UTLA’s decision to keep teachers on the picket lines and out of schools Tuesday, regardless of whether a deal is struck Monday night, infuriated parents and could cost teachers and the district a total of more than $45 million in losses.
“It is important to know, whether or not we reach an agreement late tonight, we will NOT be going to work,” UTLA wrote on its Facebook page. “Report to picket lines as usual in the morning on Tuesday.”
The patience of parents who had been trying to support the teachers was starting to wear thin.
“If they make a deal, what’s the point in still striking?” asked Tanisha Hall, who has two kids at Washington High, one at Bret Harte middle school and one at 95th Street elementary in South L.A. “This is super irritating. I need these kids back in school.”
While UTLA said that teachers needed to ratify the tentative agreement before ending the strike, some observers said there was no reason they had to do that. The decision means that teachers will lose pay for both the Monday holiday and Tuesday – costing teachers an additional $20 million in salaries and costing LAUSD around $25 million in lost attendance revenue.
That means the total losses could top $45 million for keeping teachers out of the classroom an extra day.
Some questioned whether the real reason was that UTLA had another celebrity-filled rally planned for Tuesday that it didn’t want to cancel. A UTLA flyer posted on social media advertised: “Invited Guest: Alyssa Milano” and musical performances by Quetzal and DJ Phatrick.
Parents noticed that UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl spent Friday in the audience of Bill Maher’s show rather than at the negotiating table.
“I’m with the teachers getting a fair shake, but not if they’re striking for publicity,” Hall said. “That’s foolish and irresponsible.”
Ben Austin, executive director of Kids Coalition and parent of a 3rd grader at Warner Avenue elementary, said that the harm to students who have already missed a week of school was getting totally lost.
“If UTLA represented widget makers, go for it. Go on as many talk shows as you want. Have at it,” he said. “But UTLA represents teachers who teach children that need to be in the classroom. This isn’t about going on talk show circuit. It’s about working on a deal that puts kids first.”
Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) also criticized UTLA’s decision. “Continuing the disruption to our families, including our teachers, despite how negotiations are going, is irresponsible,” Melvoin said. “Both parties should be focused on reaching an agreement, not on strike-related activities. If UTLA does continue, we will still keep schools open as our responsibility to our families, most of whom are living in poverty, does not end.”
Some parents were so angered by the news of the strike entering week two that they started comparing it to Trump’s government shutdown.
“It’s ridiculous, honestly,” said Fang Huang, who has kids in kindergarten and 3rd grade at the Broadway Mandarin Immersion program in Venice. “Caputo-Pearl is literally Trump. He yells ‘fake news’ on budgets, won’t negotiate in earnest, attacks [LAUSD Superintendent Austin] Beutner on personal [stuff]. UTLA is actually screwing their teachers by inviting receivership upon themselves. And then all the teachers’ unsupportable benefits will be cancelled by the state and teachers laid off, too.”
Another fed-up parent of a 5th grader, who has served in a leadership role at her kids’ booster club for years, said the protracted strike has prompted her to start looking at private schools, charters and nearby school districts for middle school.
“We’ve been thinking about leaving LAUSD for awhile,” she said. “The strike isn’t helping. [I’m] annoyed.”
Parents were also perplexed about what exactly UTLA was hoping to gain from continuing a strike that has morphed into more of an ideological power struggle than a negotiation over salaries, class sizes and hiring. “I don’t understand the end game,” said one mom. “If what they’re striking about isn’t what’s on the table...If it’s really about the ‘soul’ of public education -- how does it end?”
The behind-the-scenes talks that lasted all weekend underscored to parents just how little their voices matter. They have been left out of the process completely.
“Parents and students are on the outside looking in when it come to these negotiations,” Austin said. “For UTLA to extend the process so they can ratify the contract or have a political rally is just another Exhibit A for the fact that these negotiations are not about students. They’re about adults interests and power.”
One mom who served for years as president of the booster club at her child’s elementary school and now has a child in middle school said she was “tired…so tired.” Her kids have been staying home alone during the strike while she works, and “they’re getting so squirrely.”
If she could do so without reprisal, she said she would write an open letter to Beutner “giving him permission to bankrupt the district. I’d tell him I believe them about the finances, and if the union doesn’t, they are ultimately the ones that might lose the most in a breakup of the district, so go ahead and agree to their terms and let it fail.”