This blog was written by Luca, an Intern at San Jose Peace & Justice Center.
Teachers, students, and residents of Los Angeles have taken to the streets to protest against the many problems that are affecting their public schools. The lack of financial resources for the school districts of LA has had serious effects in the classroom. It’s no longer uncommon for classroom sizes to be as high as 50 students, and for art and music programs to be almost nonexistent. A more important result of the neglected LA school system is the lack of permanent medical staff. Nurses hired by the districts have to rotate schools, meaning most schools only have nurses on campus once or twice a week. Additionally, according to the L.A. Times, due to the limited support students are receiving, only 42% meet English standards, while only 32% meet math ones.
These protests are significantly different from the ones last year in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and other southern and Midwest states. As the strikes by teachers there were in primarily Republican controlled states, the entire administration of not only LA, but all of California is strongly controlled by the Democratic Party, making it clear that neither party is willing to take action to improve the school system. Instead of trying to resolve the demands presented by the teachers, like the hiring of more medical staff, and other major reforms that would positively affect the educational system, like the ending of the overtesting of students, and the empowerment of school groups, the city has resolved to do nothing. Justifying their ignorance by claiming there isn’t enough money to fulfill the teacher’s demands, while, according to the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), it’s well known that there’s almost 2 billion dollars worth of undirected and unused funds in LA’s treasury.
As teachers continue to protest, many feel that they aren’t properly represented by their unions, which are supposed to fight for their demands of a better workplace. Union officials feel that the solution to the many problems that affect classrooms is to promote the interests and points of view provided by the Democratic Party, in contrast to working to fix the problems directly. This was made obvious when the union president spoke of hope, not through what the teachers were doing, but because of a bill on the 2020 ballet proposed by Democrats that will modestly increase corporate taxes. This bill, already having little to do directly with educational reform, was tried before, and failed to help public education, as resources were never reverted to schools. I feel that a majority of union executives nationwide have traded representing who they were elected to represent, for political support by those that have contrasting views to the union’s interests. It isn’t uncommon to see union officials running for major positions and winning, being backed by those they have sided with.
As teachers begin to feel discontent for their union, there has been a mutual feeling with auto workers in Detroit. Recently, after clear avoidance by their unions to take any action against the closing of factories which would result in the laying off of many workers, Detroit auto workers voted to form their own committees, completely independent of their unions. This may be the start of a new labor movement, spearheaded by grassroots organizations fueled by a common discontent for the unions they once trusted to truthfully represent them.
“California Test Scores have barely improved, what to do is hotly debated” LA Times
“UTLA Announces January 10 Strike Date” UTLA
“LA teachers and supporters speak out at massive rally” World Socialist Web Site
“Mass demonstration by LA teachers” World Socialist Web Site
“A significant step forward: Detroit meeting of autoworkers resolves to form rank-and-file committees” World Socialist Web Site