[Teachers across the country face a systematic underfunding of
public schools and a systematic devaluing of the teaching profession
by leaders who say public education should be swept aside to make room
for a system of private free-market education.]
[https://www.portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 IS THE LOS ANGELES TEACHER STRIKE A DIFFERENT KIND OF STRIKE?  
[https://www.portside.org/node/19135] 

 

 Peter Greene 
 January 12, 2019
Forbes
[https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2019/01/12/is-the-los-angeles-teacher-strike-a-different-kind-of-strike/#1765ef1830e5]


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 _ Teachers across the country face a systematic underfunding of
public schools and a systematic devaluing of the teaching profession
by leaders who say public education should be swept aside to make room
for a system of private free-market education. _ 

 Teachers and their supporters picket outside John Marshall High
School in Los Angeles on Jan. 14. , Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images 

 

In my entire teaching career, I was in two teacher strikes; one as a
newly hired first year teacher, the other as the president of the
local association. The on-the-ground specifics of every strike are
different, but both experiences underlined what I have come to believe
is true of all teacher strikes:

Teachers don't want to strike.

Teacher strikes happen because teachers believe they are out of
alternatives. There has never been a union meeting in which members
said, "The board says they're willing to talk, and we trust them to do
so in good faith, but we think we should strike instead." Teachers
strike because they face issues that can't be ignored and a board that
won't sit down to help solve those issues. Even then, teachers strike
reluctantly. Strikes don't happen because the most active, cranky
members are ready to walk, and strikes don't happen because local,
state or national leaders convince the rest of the members to walk.
Strikes happen when school district leadership convinces the most
strike-averse teachers that they are out of options.

That's what makes the L.A. strike, like the statewide strikes in West
Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado and Washington, so
extraordinary. If you have not worked in union leadership, I'm not
sure you can imagine just how difficult it is to push that many
teachers to undergo the stress, uncertainty and trouble of a strike.
No union leadership could do it without the assistance of the local
school district's board and administration, or the politicians
overseeing education on the state level.

This part of the L.A. strike is not new. Teachers strike because they
want to be able to do their jobs with a decent standard of living,
without having to constantly watch their backs, under conditions that
allow them to do the best they can, and with a sense that they'll
leave a stronger school for the future. Teachers strike because they
have stopped believing that their school board can be trusted to help
them pursue those goals. All of this has been true of every teacher
strike ever.

In my entire teaching career, I was in two teacher strikes; one as a
newly hired first year teacher, the other as the president of the
local association. The on-the-ground specifics of every strike are
different, but both experiences underlined what I have come to believe
is true of all teacher strikes:

Teachers don't want to strike.

Teacher strikes happen because teachers believe they are out of
alternatives. There has never been a union meeting in which members
said, "The board says they're willing to talk, and we trust them to do
so in good faith, but we think we should strike instead." Teachers
strike because they face issues that can't be ignored and a board that
won't sit down to help solve those issues. Even then, teachers strike
reluctantly. Strikes don't happen because the most active, cranky
members are ready to walk, and strikes don't happen because local,
state or national leaders convince the rest of the members to walk.
Strikes happen when school district leadership convinces the most
strike-averse teachers that they are out of options.

That's what makes the L.A. strike, like the statewide strikes in West
Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado and Washington, so
extraordinary. If you have not worked in union leadership, I'm not
sure you can imagine just how difficult it is to push that many
teachers to undergo the stress, uncertainty and trouble of a strike.
No union leadership could do it without the assistance of the local
school district's board and administration, or the politicians
overseeing education on the state level.

This part of the L.A. strike is not new. Teachers strike because they
want to be able to do their jobs with a decent standard of living,
without having to constantly watch their backs, under conditions that
allow them to do the best they can, and with a sense that they'll
leave a stronger school for the future. Teachers strike because they
have stopped believing that their school board can be trusted to help
them pursue those goals. All of this has been true of every teacher
strike ever.

But in L.A. (and West Virginia and Oklahoma and the other #REDforED
states) there is a new factor.

In my two strikes, and in virtually all strikes of the past, we could
make one assumption safely--that as much as we disagreed about the
means, everyone wanted, in their own way, to see the public school
district remain healthy and whole.

This is no longer a safe assumption on the local, state or national
level.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner came to the job with no
background in education
[https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-edu-beutner-los-angeles-superintendent-20180501-story.html].
This is no longer unusual in large districts, nor in state school
leadership positions. Increasingly the agenda of many people taking
positions of authority over public education
[https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2015/11/tn-broadie-amateur-takes-over-asd.html] is
to dismantle public education and replace it with a network of private
charter schools, a process often accelerated by starving public
schools for funding in order to manufacture a crisis. And lest we
forget, current secretary of education Betsy DeVos once declared that
public schools are a "dead end.
[https://www.journalnow.com/news/nation_world/public-school-system-is-a-dead-end-education-secretary-designate/article_ef458ebe-c7aa-11e6-b277-eb6e609346d4.html]" Beutner's
comment to a reporter 
[https://www.nationofchange.org/2019/01/10/30000-la-teachers-strike-ready-as-district-refuses-to-spend-1-86-billion-reserve-on-better-pay-smaller-class-sizes/]regarding
the strike was "There are ways to educate kids that don't rely on a
physical body." Teachers are not necessary.

L.A. schools particularly feel this privatization push. Eli Broad has
long been a wealthy advocate of approaching education as business, and
through Great Public Schools Now, announced in 2016 a bold plan to
move half of Los Angeles students 
[https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/06/eli-broads-bloodless-coup.html]into
charter schools. Currently charters have enrolled one in five of LA
students [http://time.com/5499164/la-teacher-strike-charter-schools/].
Last fall, charter school advocates poured millions of dollars into
LAUSD board elections 
[https://npeaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Los-Angeles-Hijacked-by-Billionaires.pdf]in 
order to install a charter-favoring majority on the board.

Teachers in many school districts and many states across the country
find themselves in the unusual position of working in an institution
led by people who want to see that institution fail. Back in the day,
teacher strikes were about how best to keep a school district healthy,
but these modern walkouts are about the very idea that public schools
should be kept healthy at all. UTLA demands for smaller classes, more
support staff, safer schools, community schools, and charter school
oversight are not about making their working conditions a little
better, but about keeping public education alive and healthy.

Teachers across the country are dealing with the problems created by
systematic underfunding of public schools and a systematic devaluing
of the teaching profession by leaders who believe that public
education should be swept aside to make room for a system of private
free market education. Of all the reactions to this, the #REDforEd
movement and the wave of strikes are actually the good news, because
these are the teachers who intend to stay and fight for the future of
public education and the students it serves. When those walkouts are
settled, the teachers will return to the classroom. The bad news? The
oft-noted teacher "shortage,
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/01/09/americas-teacher-shortage-cant-be-solved-by-hiring-more-unqualified-teachers/?utm_term=.8f6859fb91ec]"
is really a slow motion walkout of teachers who will never return to
the profession at all.

When the teachers of my district walked out years ago, it was a small
strike that attracted little attention outside of our area because our
issues were strictly our own. When Los Angeles teachers walk out, it
will resonate across the country because the issues they walk for are
about the health and survival of public education for children in
their communities, and those are the same issues that teachers all
across the country are struggling with as well. That's what makes this
strike, like last year's wave of state strikes, different--many
teachers will see it not as simply a local battle, but as a skirmish
in a larger national fight.

_I spent 39 years as a high school English teacher, looking at how hot
new reform policies affect the classroom. I look at K-12 policies and
practices from the classroom perspective._

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