As the oldest of 10 siblings, I did a lot of caretaking. My parents had to work long hours to support all of us, so I made sure dinner was on the table each night and that everyone was awake in the morning and headed off to school.
My story isn’t unique in Los Angeles. All over the city, parents work two (or more) jobs to support their children who go to local public schools. Many such parents don’t have the time or opportunity to make sure their voice is heard at school board or City Council meetings. So as we get closer to the possibility of a strike by the teachers of the L.A. Unified School District, I want to speak up on behalf of these working families and immigrant families — because they will feel it acutely if teachers walk out.
If teachers strike and schools close, these parents will face bad options. Should they miss work to take care of their children? Will they be able to find suitable childcare? Will they get fired if they don’t? Will they be able to afford it?
At the same time, they know their children are vulnerable to falling behind at school. The last thing any kid needs is to miss more days of learning, especially right on the heels of summer break when they’re already playing catch-up after three months off.
These families, who will be seriously impacted by any strike, are not invited to the labor negotiations underway. These key stakeholders have no seat at the table. But if they were there, I’m certain they would say they don’t want a strike. They would tell the teachers’ union and the district to work out their differences and keep schools open.
I’m with them. I spent many years on the Los Angeles City Council and County Board of Supervisors, so I know a thing or two about politics and negotiations. A strike will not get L.A. Unified what it needs.
L.A. Unified simply needs more money. More money so that teachers are paid more and class sizes are smaller. More money for school nurses, counselors, social workers, librarians and other staff. More money so that every student will have access to an education that enables them to reach their potential. More money so that California gets out of the bottom tier of states in per-pupil spending.
Those are among the things that the teachers’ union is asking for and potentially will declare a strike to get. But the truth is that fighting at the local level won’t result in any of those things for our schools. More money needs to come from Sacramento. The way to get it is by working together to tell state leaders: Enough is enough, it is time to fully fund our schools.
A strike is not going to attract more money to L.A. public schools. And a strike certainly is not going to help us come together to get what we need from the state Legislature.
I don’t know what my parents would have done if teachers had walked out and my siblings and I couldn’t to go to school. I hope the district, school leadership and teachers are listening, and that L.A. families will be able to go to work and school without interruption in the weeks ahead.