To reopen schools, give parents a seat at the table

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This week, United Teachers Los Angeles finally agreed to resume teaching in-person this fall – a week after my children and over 600,000 other students logged out of Zoom and left for a disrupted sophomore break in largely by this union.

While this new promise that school could be back to normal in August, those of us who have lived with this neighborhood’s broken promises for the past 15 months know that we are not to hope. We know that reopening LAUSD belongs to UTLA, which has taken advantage of a global pandemic and held our children’s education as a ransom to line their pockets. The devil will really be in the details of the negotiations between the district and the union, which will continue throughout the summer.

The UTLA has already forced the district to deviate from its commitment to make decisions based on public health guidelines; LAUSD will continue to require our children (regardless of their immunization status or whether they are in outdoor recess) to wear masks at all times at school, even during the scorching summer heat.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz is dissatisfied with monthly childcare allowances of $ 500, reduced school testing requirements, priority vaccines, shortened days, safety precautions and many other concessions the union obtained from the LAUSD board of directors. Even as the state reopens, vaccination rates soar and cases plummet, she doubles with a new list of demands, including unprecedented salary increases and staff increases that translate into higher incomes for union dues. Another district expense that is asking students for money is a $ 1.5 million study to explore the provision of affordable housing for district employees.

Each week during her video to members, Myart-Cruz reminds us that a return to school will not happen until she and her members say so. What if she doesn’t get what she wants? I’m afraid to know: more school closures and another year of Zoom in a room where kids learn little and suffer tremendously.

For everything LAUSD has given to this teachers‘ union, what have the children received? Nothing. Teaching minutes – the time spent teaching in front of students – have been kept to a minimum. Other districts in areas hit hard by COVID-19 – like Long Beach, San Diego, and Sacramento – offer significantly more teaching hours than LAUSD. UTLA even bragged about it because “their unions are not as strong as UTLA”.

Let it flow.

In a district where only 30% of students are proficient in math and 50% are proficient in English in grade 11, UTLA is proud to have been “strong enough” to successfully cut instructional time to the lowest in the region.

The loss of learning created by all of this was tragic. Article after article and several well-documented research studies have clearly shown that our children have lost so much academically and socially as the district gives UTLA everything it demands and more.

Students and parents suffer from the decisions made, at a table where we have no say in the matter. But is there a silver lining to all of this? Maybe there is.

The pandemic has given parents a new understanding of how the teachers’ union works. How our LAUSD chart works. It was an eye-opening experience for parents of all demographics, from all political perspectives. Even the most ardent union supporters and progressive families, those of us who marched with our teachers in 2019, have come to understand the legal racketeering that has been going on for years.

At least three of the seven LAUSD board members have had their campaigns funded by the union they are elected to account for. How can we expect them to negotiate at arm’s length and put our children and families first when they are in so much debt to the union on the other side of the bargaining table?

Every decision they make is clouded by their debt to the teachers’ union. How can we trust them to put families first, when their seats on the LAUSD board – offering them generous pay and benefits – depend on union support?

It’s time to give parents a place around the table so we can work with LAUSD to ensure schools fully reopen this fall – regardless of what the union wants on any given day. Parents are the only riding where no campaign is union funded, and parents are the only ones who can truly say that we speak for our children. We cater for one specific interest only, and we’re proud to say so. This particular interest concerns the students of LAUSD.

Michelle Souferian is the mother of three elementary school students. She got involved at a recent rally organized by California Students United, a grassroots LAUSD parent group calling on the district to fully reopen schools and give parents a seat at the table. The parents are currently suing LAUSD and Superintendent Austin Beutner. You can see and ask LAUSD board members to sign their pledge here demanding that the district give parents a seat at the table and partner with parents.


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