November 30, 2018News
LAUSD parent In support of our neighborhood public schools
By Tracy Bartley
Mother of two LAUSD students
I’m a parent of two LAUSD students, and I fully support a potential teachers’ strike. A strike may be the only way to get the state and the school district to invest in our children—all of our children.
My family’s story is not unfamiliar. When our daughter was four, we started looking at school options in earnest. We listened as our neighbors told us to stay away from our neighborhood public school. It had only a four rating on GreatSchools, they told us. The test scores are horrible, they told us. So we toured “better” schools, including charter schools and private schools.
Our daily walks continued to take us past the large asphalt campus of our neighborhood school, where we saw few trees but plenty of happy, laughing, playing children. One day, our daughter told us she wanted to go to that school. The school at the end of her street. The school with the smiling children. So we added that school to our list.
When we toured the campus, we didn’t find a fancy art space, yoga classes, or a 21st-century science lab like we’d seen at other schools. But what we did find were loving, enthusiastic teachers who gathered a diverse group of students into song, stories, and math activities. We found teachers who knew their students and their families and cared about more than just how their reading was progressing or numbers were being learned but also about if their grandmother was feeling better or if they had a warm jacket to wear at recess.
We found a community. Fast forward and we now have two daughters in our neighborhood high school, and I am still impressed daily by the care and attention students receive from their teachers—teachers who have hundreds of kids pass through their classrooms each day and still know each child’s name.
If the teachers in LA go on strike, it won’t be for themselves. They are fighting for smaller class sizes to create better environments for our kids to learn in. They are fighting for more school nurses, counselors, and psychologists to address students’ social-emotional needs that hinder learning. They are fighting for more librarians so that all schools can have vibrant spaces for reading and research.
I’ve heard LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and his school board allies claim that the district doesn’t have the money to meet the demands teachers are making on behalf of our children. At best, that assertion is disingenuous, considering that the district’s own financial documents show it has $1.86 billion in unrestricted reserves. At worst, these claims of fiscal crisis are part of a strategy to disinvest in public education in favor of the greater expansion of unregulated charters that don’t serve all students. That unchecked expansion already drains nearly $600 million a year from neighborhood public schools like my daughters’.
Of course, to fund public schools at the level our children deserve, we also need changes in state education funding. There’s no excuse for California—one of the richest states in the nation—to rank 43rd in the country in per-pupil funding. The good news is that the state has a budget surplus of $14.5 billion for 2019-20, and our new governor, Gavin Newsom, can use that extraordinary surplus in his first budget to pull us up from the bottom.
To those who say that a teachers’ strike would hurt our children, I say that the status quo of disinvestment is the far greater threat. Teachers are fighting for a robust, healthy public education system that benefits every child who comes in the door. They are fighting to give our children the education they deserve and to teach them to be thoughtful, compassionate, problem solvers—and that is good for us all.