Last year was a tumultuous year in education filled with teacher strikes, student protests and lots of Red for Ed. This year we in Los Angeles, begin by moving forward to positive changes in not just our schools, but in the educational system and government’s role in funding and supporting education. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing the teachers in the second largest school district in the United States, has created a New Deal platform centered on five main points.
NURTURE THE WHOLE CHILD
Nurturing the whole child centers on the expansion of Community Schools, schools that become the focal point of the community, a gathering place, a place to get information and support for children and families. This involves the expansion of health and human services by adding more nurses, counselors, psychologists, and special education support professionals. Additionally, we strive to lower class sizes and hire more librarians to fully staff schools. Teachers support the broadening of the curriculum to increase instruction and the reduction of standardized testing, which takes time away from instruction. We want to create safe schools by increasing staff and educating staff in restorative practices. To serve our large and diverse school district, the UTLA platform calls for increased investments in adult education, early education, multilingual and special education.
The most visible strike demand across the nation during the many strikes during the last school year was for professional pay. As stated in a recent article in The Atlantic (theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/pay-teachers-more-because-women-have-other-options/597322/), pay inequity has largely been based on the fact that teaching was a profession in which the majority were women. Long ago, this was due to the fact that teaching was considered a “second income” for married women,who didn’t have many career options open to them, so many became teachers. Currently, women have many more options and the lack of competitive professional pay is creating a teacher shortage nationwide. It is not that women, as well as men, don’t want to become teachers, it is because one cannot live on a teacher’s salary. UTLA is including not only professional pay, but also high-quality healthcare and a secure retirement in the New Deal platform.
Teachers and students deserve improved working conditions including safe, secure and clean schools. Teachers deserve the support of their principals when learning new curriculum, meeting the demands of State and district requirements, and when working with students and parents. Principals must be well trained and have the ability and knowledge to support teachers. Educators are highly trained and are capable of making decisions about their work, methods of instruction, and the needs of their students and school. By empowering teachers and utilizing their expertise, teachers can be an integral part of supporting their schools and the achievement of their students.
RESPECT STUDENTS & PARENTS
UTLA wants to ensure that all students including immigrant families, LGBTQ students, minority students, and those of all religions and gender identity are free from harassment, surveillance, and random searches. UTLA supports movements for economic, racial, gender, LGBTQ, and social justice. We want to expand green space in schools and to work with the city to win free public transportation for students to help ensure attendance. LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation and we want to use this leverage and unused land to win expansion of affordable housing to help ease the burden of homelessness many of the district’s students face. Parents and students are an integral part of our stakeholder group and we want to increase their decision-making ability by encouraging participation on local councils, leadership groups, and other groups whose decisions impact each school.
FULLY FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
UTLA is building a campaign, “20 x 20” ($20,000 in per-pupil funding by the year 2020), by working together with lawmakers and elected officials to strategize ways to change the funding of our schools in order to create a sustainable funding source that can raise our schools to be high functioning and high performing. An important part of this plan is to close corporate tax loopholes through a Schools and Communities First ballot initiative. Our children deserve the highest quality education possible with highly trained, professionally paid teachers and aides. We also must fully fund and expand special education (IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) for our students with special needs and Title 1 funding for low-income neighborhood schools. Equitable funding can give our students the advantages they need to succeed in school and prepare for life.
The rapid growth of private charter schools has had a financial impact on our schools, especially if these charter schools demand to co-locate on our already overburdened campuses. They take money and resources from our taxpayer-funded districts and do not give anything in return, essentially draining our schools. UTLA wants to hold all schools to the same standards of transparency and accountability. We will accomplish this by fighting the corporate charter industry’s influence in politics.
This strategic plan formulated by UTLA, is meant to benefit students, parents, teachers, school staff, and administrators by providing necessary funding and support to provide the highest-quality education in the best maintained, safest schools. Teachers are fighting for our students and for our ability to stay in the profession we love by providing a salary that we can live on. When parents, students and teachers work together we can mobilize change. Connecting with your child’s teacher and getting involved in your child’s school will put you on the front lines for positive changes in education.
Join us in this 2019-2020 school year.
Author’s Note: Information in this article was gathered from the UTLA platform.