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Opinion

Readers React: Striking LAUSD teacher: ‘I still believe in the idea of public education’

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Educators, parents and others picket in support of UTLA at Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School on Tuesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am one of four or five teachers at Wilson High School in El Sereno who went on strike in 1989. Now, I find myself on strike again.

Personally, I will be affected little by this action. I retire in June, and any pay raise will not alter my retirement. Furthermore, the working conditions at Wilson will hardly change, because much of what makes working here so hard has to do with things not affected by the same budgets.

But I am striking, and I will continue to strike until there is an acceptable end. I’ll do it because, despite my cynicism and mistrust of this school district, I still believe in the idea of public education. I believe that if there are enough librarians, psychiatric social workers, nurses, counselors and teachers, even our most struggling students can get a good education.

This is one last chance for me to make a difference. I don’t know if it will work, but somewhere amid my deep cynicism is a ray of hope.

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Jeff Combe, Temple City

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To the editor: Declining enrollment and generous retiree benefits are major sources of financial stress for the Los Angeles Unified School District, made worse by the state’s inadequate funding of K-12 education. Proposition 13 is a major culprit.

LAUSD’s current high cost of pension benefits is directly due to the state’s past actions and inaction. Sacramento allowed the State Teachers’ Retirement System and the Public Employees’ Retirement System to be underfunded for many years, then recently required districts to start paying much more for CalSTRS and CalPERS.

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Also, the state has never required districts to establish reserves to pay for retiree health benefits. Federal law requires private corporations to have such reserves but exempts government agencies.

The state should have stepped into this void long ago. Sadly, doing so now would only make matters worse for LAUSD in the short term.

Roger Rasmussen, Los Angeles

The writer is a former budget director and deputy chief financial officer for LAUSD.

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To the editor: It’s time to tell the truth about the school strike: Improving children’s education is not the top priority for either LAUSD or United Teachers Los Angeles.

The self-serving adversaries should come together on one essential area of common ground — smaller classes — and sacrifice all other needs toward achieving that goal. Do whatever it takes.

Frances O’Neill Zimmerman, La Jolla

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