The writer is a public school teacher in Los Angeles.
Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second biggest public school district in the country are set to strike this week and deserve the support of revolutionary and progressive people everywhere.
Some 33,000 educators and members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles union, consisting of teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians and other school workers are set to take to the picket line to defend public education in Los Angeles against the privatization plans of LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.
Beutner, a multimillionaire and former investment banker, got rich by breaking up and selling off corporations while laying off workers and wants to do the same to LAUSD. He worked in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and made huge profits selling off socialized property. Beutner has never worked in public education and was installed as LAUSD superintendent to privatize the school district in LA as what has happened in cities such as Detroit and New Orleans where there are now in essence no public schools.
It was recently leaked that Beutner has a plan to divide LAUSD into 32 smaller districts, a so called “portfolio” model, made up different privatization schemes. This tactic has been utilized in Newark, New Jersey, under the direction of Corey Booker, the former mayor of the city and current U.S. Senator for the state. Over a third of Newark public schools have been turned into charter schools.
But teachers and other workers in solidarity with educators have mounted stiff resistance to Beutner’s plans. Last September 98 percent of UTLA members authorized union leadership to call a strike. On December 15, 50,000 union members and their supporters rallied and took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
The impending LA teacher strike is an action that requires a great deal of worker consciousness and selflessness. Instead of being happy with a 6 percent raise and maintaining our health benefits, we are striking for lower class sizes and more nurses and counselors. We are going to force Beutner and the LAUSD bureaucracy to invest in our schools and students. If Beutner were to succeed, workers’ rights would take a big hit and the vast majority of Los Angeles youth would lose.
Charter schools are notoriously quick to kick out students deemed more difficult to teach, including those receiving special education services, and (illegally) avoid enrolling them in the first place.
We demand full time nurses and librarians at every school and lower class sizes! We demand more counselors and a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. California ranks near the bottom of the United States in per public spending for public education, and learning/working conditions in LA schools are near the bottom of the state.
The money is there. LAUSD has a $2 billion surplus which Beutner is refusing to spend. He is hoarding money to fund his privatization plans, but teachers and the majority of working class people stand in the way of Beutner and his billionaire supporters.
If you are in a union, wherever you are, get your union to show support for our strike. If you live close by, join a picket line. We are striking to win and assure the future existence of public schools in Los Angeles.