Veteran teachers at Topanga Elementary School Amy Weisberg and Roger Harrell, who is also a United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) representative, have been asked why teachers are ready to strike.
Currently teachers are at an impasse with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and are in negotiations with a state mediator.
We are asking for a return to schools with integrity. That means smaller class size, increased school safety, charter school accountability, support for community schools and early education centers, and fair wages.
System Improvements—We are asking for improvements to our schools that directly impact our students, such as less District-mandated testing and more time for teaching; smaller class sizes, which directly impact our ability to provide quality individualized instruction; improved school safety including lower school-to-counselor ratios, which, are currently at 945:1, and lower student-to-nurse ratio, currently at 1,224:1. Teachers also want to increase administrator accountability for school safety and discipline and invest in positive behavior support through restorative justice.
School Safety and Accountability—Since 2008, there has been a 287 percent growth in the charter school industry in L.A. that drains almost $600 million from public schools each year.
Transparency—We demand that authorized charter schools operate transparently and provide equal access and due process rights for all parents and students.
Community Schools—Instead of charter schools, teachers want to build on the Community Schools model to increase and expand parent engagement, broaden the curriculum, and increase social services at our highest-need schools. This would increase enrollment and enable schools to provide much needed services for the local school community.
Early Education—We want to improve Early Education Centers, which are crucial to providing a strong social and intellectual foundation for our youngest students.
Fair Wages—Fair wages need to take into account that the cost of living in Los Angeles has increased 27 percent since 2008. This cost of housing increase has made it nearly impossible for teachers to live and raise a family in the areas in which they teach. We need to be able to attract and retain quality educators in order to maintain the integrity of our schools.
Money—The money is here to fund our schools. California is the fifth largest economy in the world. Los Angeles has more millionaires and billionaires than any other state in the country, but corporations refuse to pay their fair share in taxes. LAUSD has more than $1.7 billion in unrestricted reserves yet keeps telling the press that they are out of money.
Topanga Elementary is a unique LAUSD-affiliated charter school with strong parent support, both financially and as volunteers. We are extremely grateful for this and feel lucky to work at Topanga Elementary Charter School. As District employees, however, we support the greater UTLA goals and our academic colleagues.
We are asking for community and parent support in our efforts to improve education in Los Angeles. Our union color is red. Join us by wearing red on Tuesdays: “Red for Ed” (Education), and, if you can spare some time, join us on the picket line!
*NOTE: Statistics and information were provided by the United Teachers of Los Angeles.
By Roger Harrell & Amy Weisberg