(UPDATE: LAUSD announced Monday morning that they will NOT be opening school campuses for the foreseeable future; schools will follow the distance learning model.)
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (not exactly a beacon of educational excellence) has released a ransom note to the School Board detailing under which conditions they’ll agree to on-campus learning resuming for their students.
Of course, none of them really have to do with the well-being of the students. Like most teachers unions, UTLA was not thrilled with distance learning when our collective quarantine first started. Recall this Washington Post op-ed headlined:
Homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children
Filled with nuggets like this:
Years of research shows that online schooling is ineffective — and that students suffer significant learning losses when they have a long break from school. Now they’re getting both, in a hastily arranged mess. And the kids who suffer most from the “summer slide” are the low-income students, the ones already struggling to keep up.
At the time, those “experts” thought everyone would be going back to on-campus, in-person learning in the fall. How cute.
In large measure, because Donald Trump wants students to physically return to school for the new school year, UTLA has changed their stance. And, since no good socialist will allow a crisis to go to waste, they’ve decided this is their chance to demand everything their dark little hearts have ever desired. They openly admit that they didn’t get everything they wanted when they went on strike in January 2019, and this is a second bite at the apple. A portion of the ransom demand letter reads (emphasis mine):
Normal Wasn’t Working For Us Before. We Can’t Go Back
No matter the scenario in August, it’s clear that it will not be a “normal” school year. But when “normal” means deep race and class fissures that result in increased infection and death rates in Black, Brown, and high-poverty communities; when “normal” means increasing police budgets even as schools, libraries, and public health face catastrophic cuts; when “normal” means corporations receiving trillions in bailout funds as federal commitments to support special education and high-poverty students remain unfulfilled; when “normal” means working families lining up for miles for food banks while US billionaires increased their wealth by over $584 billion — it is clear that going back to normal is not an option. This crisis presents an opportunity to create a new normal that supports all students.
Before listing their demands, the union admits that “crisis distance learning” has harmed some students – the ones they’re supposedly most concerned about – more than others:
Vulnerable students —already facing hurdles such as structural racism, poverty, homelessness, immigration documentation issues, learning and health disabilities, and limited technology access —were disproportionately negatively impacted by the Los Angeles Unified School District’s shift to crisis distance learning.
These students have been so negatively impacted that their teachers want to continue to keep them out of school unless the following list of demands is met from federal, state, and local government:
- Education bailout, similar to CARES Act, for shortfalls in educating students with disabilities
- Fully Fund Title I, IDEA
- Medicare for All
- Abolish Proposition 13 protections for commercial and industrial properties, which would lead to a reassessment of those properties – a $12 billion tax increase
- Wealth Tax – 1% tax on unrealized capital gains, applicable to California billionaires only
- Millionaire tax – 1% tax on incomes over $1 million/year, 3% tax on incomes over $3 million/year
- Defund police (not LAUSD police; they’ve already done that)
- Guarantee housing as a human right
- Force LA City Council to require ALL businesses in the city to offer 10 additional sick days to all employees
- Charter school moratorium
- Financial handouts to illegal aliens in the district
All of this is about money coming down to LAUSD to be frittered away by bureaucrats or to meet pension obligations, or somehow make its way back into the pockets of union bosses. UTLA argues that an increase in funding is needed because California ranks 38th in the nation on per-pupil spending, their rhetoric is disingenuous as applied to Los Angeles Unified. The budget passed a few weeks ago in Sacramento for the next fiscal year provides more than $15,000 per pupil to LAUSD, which is $6,000 more per pupil than neighboring Hermosa Beach Unified School District. The national average per-pupil spending is just over $12,000. So why are your schools in such a mess and student achievement not on par with other well-funded districts, LAUSD and UTLA?
(In addition to the funding requirements, UTLA listed about two pages worth of classroom-level demands having to do with social distancing, PPE, contact tracing, social and emotional support, etc., etc., that I’ve not included in this piece.)
The ransom letter concludes with shameful rhetoric. After asserting that politicians want schools to open simply to serve as childcare centers so the parents can go back to low-wage jobs and be exploited by evil corporations, they say:
When politicians exhort educators and other workers to “reignite the economy,” UTLA educators ask: who are you planning to use as kindling? [T]he only people guaranteed to benefit from the premature physical reopening of schools amidst a rapidly accelerating pandemic are billionaires and the politicians they’ve purchased.
I might have missed it, but I haven’t heard politicians exhorting educators to “reignite the economy.” I have heard, though, that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that students return to on-campus, in-person learning. In fact, the AAP guidance states that things like food security, student mental health, and identifying and preventing sexual and physical abuse of children are negatively impacted by the extended time away from in-person learning:
“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”
“This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality,” the guidance continued. “Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”
Sadly, the inept and ignorant crew in charge of things in Los Angeles will probably bow to these demands, and the real victims are the students still held hostage in failing schools and unable to make their own demands.