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L.A. teachers may go against every instinct they have to strike. They deserve our support

L.A. teachers may go against every instinct they have to strike. They deserve our support
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, left, joins teachers at a rally in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 15. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

To the editor: Second only to parents, it is a child's teacher who plays such an important role in shaping the young person. In addition to inculcation of the skills mandated by the K-12 curriculum, the teacher is also responsible for socialization, character building and now more than ever, the assimilation of newcomers. (“A report that offers a path to compromise at L.A. Unified,” editorial, Dec. 20)

To prepare today’s teacher for the daunting responsibilities entrusted to him or her, typically six years of college-level education is required. Other professions that require such extensive training are handsomely compensated. Yet teachers, who are closely engaged in the shaping of our youth, are not.

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Now the teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District are compelled by economic justice and their wish for professional working conditions to reluctantly leave their classrooms and take to the sidewalks. To do so is the utter abandonment of every instinct that makes them teachers. Not to do so would be an affront to their human dignity and a denial of the importance of their role in society.

Sam La Sala, Monrovia

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To the editor: In 1989, I was eight months pregnant and teaching in LAUSD. I went out on strike. We “won.”

But, after nine years in LAUSD and as a member of UTLA, I cannot say that the union did us any favors. The district problems persisted until entrepreneur parents started to form charter schools that provided a new vision of what education could look like in Los Angeles.

Now, we have a bifurcated system pitting one against the other, with UTLA still pulling power plays that will likely end the way the 1989 strike did: with short-term salary wins for teachers, celebrated as a victory for the union, but later cutbacks to address the real funding deficits, and teachers and students caught in the crosshairs of an entrenched combative relationship between the union and the school board.

Parents and teachers need to stand up for major reform that includes partnerships with school leaders in solving the major problems of an unwieldy district and power stances on both sides of the negotiating table. Striking is not the answer, and charter schools are not the problem.

We need new solutions if we wish to fix our long-lasting problems.

Wendy Zacuto, Playa del Rey

The writer, an educational consultant, is a former LAUSD teacher and charter school principal.

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To the editor: LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner’s claim that the district does not have the money to give teachers the raises they demand is nothing new.

I vividly remember similar arguments by superintendents going back to 1970, when I participated in the first strike by the newly formed UTLA and once again in 1989. In both cases, the money was found when teachers showed solidarity.

It’s little wonder that mistrust by teachers exists.

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Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

The writer is a retired teacher who blogs about education at theedhed.com.

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To the editor: There is an old proverb: “When elephants do battle, the grass gets trampled.” That’s exactly what will happen if the teachers go on strike.

In this case, the teachers union and LAUSD management are the elephants, and Los Angeles’ public school children are the grass.

Karl F. Schmid, Los Angeles

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook.

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