Jan 21, 2019
On Monday, January 14, over 30,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest school district in the country, enrolling 500,000 students, went on strike.
The LAUSD, like many other urban school districts, is overwhelmingly made up of poor and working class students; 75 percent are of Hispanic descent.
Teachers are focusing on issues directly impacting the educational quality in the district: average class sizes reaching over 30 students in elementary schools and over 40 and even 50 students in the high schools. There are few counselors and no nurses in many schools. Their biggest demands are a dramatic lowering of class size, and more counselors and at least one librarian and nurse per school.
LAUSD schools have high class sizes, while some neighboring districts, made up of mostly white, mostly middle-class families, have much smaller class sizes. The message is clear: The authorities are prepared to sacrifice the education of working class, Hispanic kids, in order to save a buck.
So far, the teachers are receiving enthusiastic support from parents and students in the district. And that makes sense – they’re all fighting for the same thing: better schools to provide a better education to their children.
This sounds perfectly reasonable for anyone who truly is interested in providing a decent education for students; but the school board refuses, saying that the district has no money for such reforms.
No money? The teachers’ union has shown that the district has almost two BILLION dollars in cash reserves, or over 26 times what they are required to maintain!
The district tries to say that they need to hang on to that money, because they forecast funding shortages within three years. But they’ve been forecasting that same shortage “within three years” – for over a decade!
Why would they not want to spend that money to benefit the students of the district they supposedly represent? Because they want to give the money to private concerns, including charter schools.
In 2017, billionaire developer Eli Broad and others spent $10 million to elect a majority of pro-charter-schools candidates to the L.A. school board. The current Superintendent, Austin Beutner, a former investment banker with NO educational experience, has allowed the continual expansion of charter schools in the district, while not even collecting the 3% oversight fee for charter schools operating in school buildings the district owns.
Large class sizes benefit the expansion of charter schools in district buildings, because they make more space available for charter schools in that property.
And despite a curriculum focused on preparing students for tests, charter students do no better than comparable students in public schools.
L.A. is only the tip of the iceberg. Last year, we saw strikes spread across the whole states of West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and others. Oakland and Sacramento schools are also on the verge of strikes.
The strikes last year took place in states dominated by Republican legislatures. California is dominated by the Democratic Party. The outcome for working class people is the same. From the state-wide level to the city of L.A., the Democrats in power have supported the gutting of the public school districts in favor of the privatization of public money – the evisceration of working class public education, in favor of draining those funds to the pockets of private corporations.
This is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It is a problem of the capitalist system, and its representatives, protecting ruling-class interests at our expense!
The working class of the entire country has an interest in supporting the strike of the L.A. teachers – and in seeing that fight spread. Not only to school districts across the country, but to all industries in which working class people are being attacked. It’s the same attack; it’s the same fight.