Also, every secondary school would get a librarian
January 14, 2019 9:07 AM   Subscribe

The LA Unified School District is going on strike for the first time in 30 years as of this morning, demanding smaller class sizes, long-term increases in staffing for students, and resources to be able to teach more effectively. Union president Caputo-Pearl asks: What does the future of American public education look like? Denver may join Los Angeles later this week in the first strike there in 25 years. The National Educational Association voted July to include support for demonstrators and a strike fund in its budget, a decision that in retrospect looks wise.
posted by sciatrix (63 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am, incidentally, completely fucking apoplectic at the whole "oh, not every school gets to have a librarian" thing going on at LA. Or more than one nurse day per week. Or 42-kid classrooms for high schoolers being fine. I routinely manage students and classes, and I can't imagine being solely responsible for the education of 40 students at a time, all at once, with no additional help--per section. Especially not in a goddamn high school.

I have a friend who is a speech-language pathologist who usually works in a school district near me, who has been worked into the ground with absurd caseloads for the past three years, and who loves her job but has given up on hoping that the school district will ever hire on additional help to make her workload even close to 40 hours a week. She is currently in the process of retraining as a medical sales tech.

I love teaching. At least judging by my evaluations, students seem to think I'm good at it. I won't teach in an American public school and have ruled out K12 teaching as a career entirely, and the way that we have nationally resolved to treat teachers is a massive reason why.
posted by sciatrix at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2019 [40 favorites]


and the way that we have nationally resolved to treat teachers is a massive reason why.

And how we treat students - one admirable thing from Caputo-Pearl's statement is how much the union is tying the strike to conditions for students and an overall disinvestment in education.

Hard for me to read stuff like this and not think about the gutting of the IRS, tax cuts for the wealthy, and all the ways that the basic building blocks of our society are crumbling.

Oh, and - solidarity with my union siblings out in LA.
posted by entropone at 9:31 AM on January 14, 2019 [28 favorites]


Can we get rid of Prop 13 yet? Keep an exception for people's primary home if needed, but there's absolutely no reason to keep it on commercial property and income producing rental property. Tax some property and fund education!
posted by Arbac at 9:37 AM on January 14, 2019 [23 favorites]


Prop 13 is what I point to when people say we ought to be able to amend the Constitution by popular vote. Can you imagine what insane shit would be on the books if we let that happen on a national level?
posted by East14thTaco at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2019 [22 favorites]


The anti-tax initiatives (13, 218, 60 and 90) have done more to damage California's governance top to bottom than anything else I can think of. The fact that what used to be normal operations now require a 2/3 voting majority is a bit ridiculous.
posted by jmauro at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


I only have one home in California, and I think someone ought to use the paper prop 13 is written on to light a torch so we could see all the things we could fund if that prop was killed.

Not every homeowner in Cali wants to protect prop 13. I kind of want to protect teachers/public schools and fire personnel/fire stations and librarians/libraries and every other publicly funded social service more. I mean, librarians should be in a school every day. Teachers shouldn't be forced (because they have values) to use their limited salaries to buy supplies - or food - for kids.

Meanwhile, solidarity to the teachers in L.A. from Northern Ca.
posted by anitanita at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2019 [11 favorites]


I can't remember where (perhaps here?) I heard Prop 13 described as "the One Ring of California politics," but I shared it with a group of people I'd gathered to discuss the midterm ballot and think I cemented in their heads that Prop 13 = evil (ostensibly in discussion of the ballot initiative expanding it, but I also made sure they knew that we'd get to vote on limiting it on the 2020 ballot). Proud of that.

There were some very informed and into-politics people in that room, but the only other person who knew what Prop 13 was off the top of their head was a high school teacher. Of course.

(For those not in the know, it essentially freezes property taxes at their 1978 levels, or whenever you moved into the house, which has fucked the tax base for public school funding. Also applies to commercial properties. Yech.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:09 AM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]


Not enough desks to go around??! What the fuck?
posted by LilithSilver at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


But isn't it in itself absurd that property taxes fund schools? To my foreign mind that can only lead to bad outcomes, since school districts with higher income inhabitants can fund better schools than those with lower incomes. Is that fair? Or am I missing something?
posted by mumimor at 10:35 AM on January 14, 2019 [36 favorites]


school districts with higher income inhabitants can fund better schools than those with lower incomes. Is that fair? Or am I missing something?

It is not fair, and you are missing nothing.
posted by asperity at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2019 [36 favorites]


To my foreign mind that can only lead to bad outcomes, since school districts with higher income inhabitants can fund better schools than those with lower incomes. Is that fair? Or am I missing something?

Nope, you seem to have a firmer grasp on it than most Americans.
posted by contraption at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2019 [21 favorites]


There are too many American parents who don't want their money to go to "those kids" to fix it, even among those who do understand it. The lack of equality is a feature, not a bug.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:45 AM on January 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


From the LA Times article: The plan at many schools for this strike is to gather students into large groups so they can be supervised by fewer adults. It's not clear how much learning will be going on outside of the real-time civics lessons happening on the sidewalks.

I realize you probably don't need someone with lots of experience as a substitute teacher to tell you this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: not a lot, and not anything good.

The one thing the kids will learn from this is how learning isn't even close to the priority the district places on keeping them penned up for the day. Even if it makes them miserable, even if it's straight up harmful for some of them. Many will also associate that priority with their parents.

And I can't say I'm shocked that one can find a few hundred subs in the LA area who either don't care about crossing lines or are really that desperate for the money, but every one of them is in for a shitty day, every day.

They should have closed the schools. Having been through a major district strike, I know how hard that can be on families, but this is worse. Keeping them open like this only shows the district's real priorities here, and it sure isn't the kids.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


We need some kind of "." equivalent to the "fist raised in solidarity" for these kinds of posts, of which I hope there will be many more to come.
posted by praemunire at 10:50 AM on January 14, 2019 [11 favorites]


Chiming in, yep, you're missing nothing. This is what led me my mother to the decision to try to get me in to a middle school in a much wealthier neighborhood based around a harbor and marina development and district.

What we didn't expect was 7th and 8th graders with thousand dollar a month coke habits and incredibly biased teachers who treated the poor kids like garbage. I remember one year the big outrage wasn't the kids doing Wolf on Wall Street quantities of blow in the bathroom, but that they banned strapless dresses for the homecoming dance because students on the wrong side of the school couldn't afford tailors. The rich kids were, of course, outraged.

Ahhh, California. You are so perfectly fucked up in so many unique ways.

Solidarity with the strikers!
posted by loquacious at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]


Anybody have any experience getting a Postmates delivery or something similar to picketers? It is a cold and rainy day out there and I'd like to send folks some coffee or pizza or something, but I'm not sure how the logistics of that would work out.
posted by queensissy at 10:57 AM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


We need some kind of "." equivalent to the "fist raised in solidarity" for these kinds of posts

✊ 🌹
posted by sciatrix at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


✊🌹
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


Are there strike funds for workers who haven't unionized yet, but might want to?
posted by schadenfrau at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


There are too many American parents who don't want their money to go to "those kids" to fix it, even among those who do understand it. The lack of equality is a feature, not a bug.

I once joked at a neighborhood party that "our taxes" should be funding only the four schools that kids from our neighborhood are actually zoned to go to. Everyone nodded, and then someone else said, dead serious, that we should only be taxed for schools while our kids were actually attending them. My spouse gave me a look that eloquently expressed See, this is why you don't fucking joke around like that, idiot, and I retreated to see whether I could help with the cornhole tournament.
posted by Etrigan at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2019 [27 favorites]


eat the rich
posted by scose at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]




Awesome, awesome, thank you, The Whelk!
posted by queensissy at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Etrigan, you ran into a perfect example of where Poe's Law applies to real life too, not just the internet.
posted by morspin at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2019


✊🌹

I feel like this gives me some context for why someone on Hacker News necroposted a 2012 article by a right-wing thinktank about “the worst union in America” yesterday. You get one guess what the union in question was.
posted by egypturnash at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2019 [7 favorites]


Oh, man. I've caught a few things on HN recently that have made me think their no politics decision (or whatever it was) was mostly about hiding the fact there's a whole BUNCH of nazis over there.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:46 AM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


The Whelk, thank you for those links! Just donated, thanks to you.
posted by samthemander at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


And this is in CA for crissakes. There was a time when CA had free college tuition.

Imagine the situation in red states. If you dare.

Speaking of which, in recent 'higher education' news: The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is thinking of eliminating its history, French and German departments. As it turns out: "The state, which had provided half the university’s budget in the 1970s, was now covering only 17 percent of it."

I think we may have allowed this plan to drive far enough in this direction.
posted by Twang at 12:37 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


Question: If schools reduce class sizes, where are those who then don't fit going? Bussing? Build new schools?

Looking at the teacher demands/requests (and not the Prop 13 sidebar), I don't understand the one for "reduction of standardized testing" at the top of the list. Why? I guess I need to dig for reasoning behind it....
posted by CrowGoat at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2019


for mumimor's questions: public schools in California are not funded by local property taxes, with wealthy areas getting more $. Property taxes and other taxes (mainly state income) are pooled statewide and sent to school districts on a per-student basis. See this summary

we do spend less per student than national average (legacy of prop 13)
posted by markvalli at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


Only thematically related, but.
posted by atoxyl at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2019


CrowGoat: The reduced class size means hiring more teachers, not reducing the number of students. If you are wondering if there are enough classrooms to support that--what is currently happening is that LAUSD schools that are considered under enrolled (can't remember the cutoff) are required to give up classrooms and other shared space to charter schools.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


Question: If schools reduce class sizes, where are those who then don't fit going? Bussing? Build new schools?

Well... yes. They will build new schools where needed, but the main issue with class size is teachers, not rooms.

Looking at the teacher demands/requests (and not the Prop 13 sidebar), I don't understand the one for "reduction of standardized testing" at the top of the list. Why? I guess I need to dig for reasoning behind it....

"Standardized testing" is shorthand for the current regimen of testing that is used to judge teachers and administrators and schools. That judgment takes the form of funding, which means that teachers at all levels are under enormous pressure not to teach their students, but to ensure that their students do well on that regimen of testing.

In short: Goodhart's law.
posted by Etrigan at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


Just sent my mom (a retired LAUSD teacher) some cash to buy and deliver snacks to my old high school. After she stops by the local elementary school to give the strike captain her address-because you can't use the school's bathrooms when you're striking.
posted by atomicstone at 1:27 PM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


Question: If schools reduce class sizes, where are those who then don't fit going? Bussing? Build new schools?

Looking at the teacher demands/requests (and not the Prop 13 sidebar), I don't understand the one for "reduction of standardized testing" at the top of the list. Why? I guess I need to dig for reasoning behind it....
posted by CrowGoat
To your first question, reducing class sizes is in this context tied to hiring more teachers. It's not about "not fitting" it's about if you have 250 students and 6 science teachers classes will be larger than if you could divide those kids among 8 or 10 teachers. Yes some schools will run into classroom space limitations but the major limit is usually staff, not space (at least in my experience, though I do not work in LA).

To your second point, the debate over standardized testing is a huuuuge, decades-old battle with more than two sides, so I don't know if I can do it justice here. The oversimplified tl;dr version is that as politicians, administrators, and sometimes parents have sought to find ways to hold US schools accountable (or less charitably to undermine public education) they have increasingly, especially since around 2000 and the NCLB law, relied on standardized tests. But people have been arguing since at least the 1970s that turning test scores into a goal to reach instead of a measurement distorts education and wastes time because teachers will teach to the test at the expense of other things, especially if test scores are tied to their salary or job security. More pro/cons on standardized tests from ThoughtCo here.

As I said the issue is multisided and complex but in the context of the strike there is a perception that the number of standardized assessments is unreasonable, eats into class time, and is being used as a political lever to cut public school funding in favor of charter schools or other alternatives. (Charter schools themselves are a huge controversial issue.) I guess I'd need to do a separate FPP to really get into this. I dunno, memail me if you have specific questions.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


"Question: If schools reduce class sizes, where are those who then don't fit going? Bussing? Build new schools?"

In the short term, for schools that don't have the classroom space (many do!), almost certainly tie-downs, which are trailer classrooms you may remember from your own childhood but now they're faaaaaaancy and not miserable.

"Looking at the teacher demands/requests (and not the Prop 13 sidebar), I don't understand the one for "reduction of standardized testing" at the top of the list. Why? I guess I need to dig for reasoning behind it...."

5th graders in LAUSD take EIGHTEEN standardized tests every year, every one of which takes away classroom instructional time and every one of which demands teachers "teach to the test" instead of teaching to the curriculum. Even if each test only takes one day (many take more than one!), that 18 instructional days lost JUST to testing, out of 180 instructional days in the year, or 10% of your time being wasted on standardized exams that don't coordinate with your curriculum or meet your pedagogy goals. And that's 18 different standardized tests crowding out your actual curriculum, so that political leaders can berate education professionals and demand to know why students are scoring 3% lower on this or that measure than last year and definitely it's not because you added more tests and took away more teaching days.

The purpose of them is to turn both students and teachers into measurable and interchangeable widgets, instead of individual children with human needs and human strengths, and professionals with expertise in pedagogy. They serve corporate and political needs. They don't serve educational needs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2019 [26 favorites]


But isn't it in itself absurd that property taxes fund schools? To my foreign mind that can only lead to bad outcomes, since school districts with higher income inhabitants can fund better schools than those with lower incomes. Is that fair? Or am I missing something?

In the states I've lived in, said property tax funds go into one big statewide pot (with minor exceptions) and then distributed to the districts based on enrollment.

My point isn't to say that it's necessarily the most equitable funding mechanism, only that it can be implemented in a way that is reasonably fair.

That said, I have rarely if ever seen a situation where a district was flush and the decision was made to increase teacher pay. No, flush districts might hire some aides, buy technology, or build a building. Giving staff a raise so they won't be the worst paid in the nation? Not so much.

It seems to be a common belief in the US that teachers should be happy they get to teach, no matter whether they can pay their bills or not.
posted by wierdo at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


With respect to CA state funding--schools with higher needs are supposed to get more $ via Local Control Funding, a formula that accounts for numbers of higher need students at schools (foster youth, english language learners, free lunches). However the distribution of that extra $ is determined at the district level. A few years ago there was a lawsuit against LAUSD alleging that high need schools were not receiving their fair share of the additional $ from LCF and that the funds were used to pay for more general district needs.

Separate from that, basically what has happened is that the schools in wealthy 'hoods all have a Friends Of sort of separate non profit fundraising arm run by school parents to pay for extra staff and other needs not covered by the LAUSD budget. That is how some schools are, say, able to afford a librarian who is on site more than once a week.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


Another piece of the puzzle, that I haven't heard anyone talk about, is that there is a law on the books in CA, pre-dating WWII iirc, which says that cities are not allowed to break out of their current school districts and form their own district. We had a state assemblyman in our district a few years back who was trying to have that law repealed. He was voted out after one term.

Repealing that law wouldn't solve the funding issue; the wealthiest school district in our area (and I mean, the one where pro-athletes and tech millionaires live) published an article last year about the whys and wherefores of how they get less funding per pupil than the LAUSD does. They've had to run professional fundraising for like the last fifteen years to meet their budget. But at least they can handle it as a community, and the community can have local input in funding decisions, and see where the funds go. Repealing the law would be start towards giving communities more autonomy over their own needs.

I've been to LAUSD board meetings, and while I find the Board members to be sincere in their mission, the reality is that they are each serving drastically different communities, so it can be difficult for them to come to a consensus. There's room for change in terms of the size and scope of the district.

The teachers are ones who've been screaming into the void for so long. I hope at the end of it we flip the entire budget upside down, and make teacher pay line item number one rather than however far down the list it is.
posted by vignettist at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


I spent some time on the picket line this morning and brought my daughter with me (though she spent a fair amount of time playing Animal Hot Springs on her phone while holding a sign). There was a good crowd and a lot of support from passing motorists. My boss is a former teacher; he had a bunch of leftover Starbucks gift cards and used them to buy lattes for teachers at a local school, and spent his lunch giving teachers a ride back to their cars from this morning's rally downtown.

The next three days are going to be cold and rainy; the forecast is for temperatures in the 50s and at least an inch of rain per day. Plans are for pickets from 7-9 am and 2-4 pm, so hopefully the teachers will get to warm up and dry off between sessions.
posted by mogget at 1:46 PM on January 14, 2019 [14 favorites]


Like yes Prop 13 sucks (it really truly does), but UTLA is arguing that in spite of that LAUSD has $1.83 billion in reserve that could cover current union demands. Superintendent Beutner argues that the reserve isn't that big and actually the district will not be solvent in a few years (retiree healthcare costs are what I usually see blamed). UTLA sorta put up with the "oh no we won't have enough $" argument for a number of years under different superintendents and now feel obvs a bit suckered because in spite of claims they won't have enough $ to cover budget if they put a cap on class size and give teachers a raise to keep up with the increasing cost of living in LA, each year that reserve grows.

There's a bunch of info on the UTLA strike website We Are Public Schools.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:00 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


My wife is currently a member of CTA but she was a UTLA member during her year as a LAUSD teacher (during the 2014-2015 school year). She is taking today off of work despite not being in UTLA in order to support and protest with the UTLA teachers. For those of you who would like a clearer idea of just how bad the situation is in LAUSD right now, here are some of the highlights from the single year that my wife taught at Venice High School:

Her very first day as a teacher she was given a class with 53 students. When she brought this to the attention of the administration they discovered that this was due to an error in their scheduling software and they promised to fix it. Several days later it had not been fixed, so she contacted her union rep who told her to provide copies of the class rolls and pictures of how the students were being squeezed into the classroom. One of the school admins happened to be walking by and overheard and as soon as they discovered that the union was going to be getting hard evidence the matter was addressed immediately.

Once her class was reduced to its correct size it was 45 students. California has a law on the books limiting the number of students per teacher, but this number is averaged across all classes. Venice High has a magnet program. The school was able to keep in compliance with the law by setting the classroom size in the magnet program at around 20 students, which allowed them to put 45 students in the regular classes. You will be shocked, shocked to learn that the magnet program was majority white and Asian, which the overcrowded regular classes were overwhelmingly Latinx and black (with a high percentage being ELL).

During the 2014-2015 school year Venice High School had five different principals.

My wife’s first day of class the students warned her not to drink from the drinking fountains in her building. The water was brown. When this was mentioned at a meeting with the administration she was instructed to “flush” the fountain before students drank from it (every time a student wanted a drink) so that the water was clear enough to be considered drinkable.

Literal trashcan fires were a problem about once a month. Once my wife saw a teacher grab a water bottle off a student’s desk and use it to put out a fire because his classroom didn’t have a functioning fire extinguisher.

Her classroom did not have a working phone. The one time a fight broke out in class she had to send a student to go get help because she couldn’t call for it and couldn’t leave the classroom to seek help herself because she had to be there to break up the fight.

The school library was almost never open, and my wife had to set up a GoFundMe to raise funds to purchase books for a classroom library. All of the books in her classroom except for the assigned textbook were paid for by her friends and family.

At the end of the school year all of LAUSD’s first-year teachers were laid off so that the school wouldn’t have to pay them over the summer. My wife was told that this was normal; one long-time teacher said that he had been laid off at the end of the year every year for the first eight years that he had been with LAUSD. She was assured that the teachers would be hired back in time for the new school year. When it was time for the new school year to start, LAUSD offered to bring her back on as a long-term substitute. She would be teaching the exact same class at the exact same school, but for 70% of the pay and severely reduced benefits.

If this seems ridiculous, well, it is ridiculous, but keep in mind that Venice High School is not considered especially egregious by LAUSD standards. There are much worse schools in the district, and that is terrifying.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2019 [34 favorites]


Let me just add that while it's a given that right-wing politicians and the Republican party are actively hostile to education in this country, the Democrats are pretty fucking terrible on education as well. In local politics it may be different, but in Washington the Democrats essentially do fuck all to mitigate the erosion of teaching and schools, and in a way it's as much on them as it is the right-wingers.
posted by zardoz at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


I am, incidentally, completely fucking apoplectic at the whole "oh, not every school gets to have a librarian" thing going on at LA. Or more than one nurse day per week.

I'm in the SF Bay Area. The school my daughter attended in 3rd grade had a library (full of books suitable for grades 1-5 or so); since then, no school either child attended had a library at all. Neither child's high school had a library. They had access to nurses one day a week, or on-call-for-emergencies. That third-grade school had a gymnasium and an outdoor playground area; since then, no coherent PE access. Middle school and one girl's high school had a tiny courtyard in which kids were expected to do some kind of stretching or running exercise for PE; other girl's high school had some vague "we have drill practice at a nearby park" for PE.

The big problem with overcrowding: California schools have a class size limit of about 30 students per classroom; schools that fail to meet it get penalties. (If you think "penalties" means "even less funding to teach the 35-student classes in schools that fail," you're right.)

There is additional funding for small class sizes - which leads to less funding for any district that can't stay under that level. This is what happened with the mid-90s CSR (Class Size Reduction) legislation; it gave bonus money to schools that stayed under 20 students per class, with the obvious problem that if three extra students move into the neighborhood in the middle of the year and start attending, the school loses the extra money, and classes increase in size - not from 19 each (because they built in some leeway) to 21-22, but to 28-30, because they've now lost money for all their classes and can't afford as many teachers.

In order to stay under the limit for class sizes, some schools attempted game-the-system solutions: 39 students in a classroom with two teachers because they just didn't have enough rooms for separate classes, weird staggered schedules; split-grade classrooms; lots of juggling kids between schools in the district to keep every class below 20 until they couldn't anymore - at which point, all the schools jumped class sizes up.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:15 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


5th graders in LAUSD take EIGHTEEN standardized tests every year, every one of which takes away classroom instructional time and every one of which demands teachers "teach to the test" instead of teaching to the curriculum. Even if each test only takes one day (many take more than one!), that 18 instructional days lost JUST to testing, out of 180 instructional days in the year, or 10% of your time being wasted on standardized exams that don't coordinate with your curriculum or meet your pedagogy goals. And that's 18 different standardized tests crowding out your actual curriculum, so that political leaders can berate education professionals and demand to know why students are scoring 3% lower on this or that measure than last year and definitely it's not because you added more tests and took away more teaching days.

Also worth noting: many of these tests are themselves expensive as fuck, and on top of the loss of instructional time they often wind up wreaking havoc on the whole school's schedule for everyone whether they're taking the test or not--which also, incidentally, costs money. At this point a lot of standardized tests are giant bureaucratic boondoggles serving no purpose other than lining the pockets of vendors and giving schools & districts a meaningless bunch of metrics to chase after.

Additionally, as I've noted in the politics threads, standardized tests generally focus on language arts skills, math, and sometimes science, but rarely social studies (if ever). This has the knock-on effect of diminishing the importance of core academic subjects like history, civics, and economics, in addition to the damage it does to elective classes like arts and music. We act like it's embarrassing for kids to not know where to find other countries on a map or how their government works, while doing everything we can in school budgets and academic planning to tell them none of that shit actually matters.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:49 PM on January 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


One cool strategy here is looking to the recent, successful red state teacher strikes and trying to make this the statewide issue that it is. Oakland Unified (which of course is much smaller than LA but still not small) may strike soon too ... not sure the latest but there was a super energized solidarity rally/pre-strike rally this weekend.

When we fight locally for school funding, we always hit a wall because although there is room to squeeze out some money here (chop from the top!) the real money has to come from Sacramento. In California, Prop 13 has decimated school funding, and we need to overturn it yesterday, but it's time to find some alternate funding sources as well. We can't just wait until the mythical day in the future when this sadly very popular law gets overturned. We need to create a stable funding increase now for the whole state now. Then keep working on Prop 13 and make it even stronger.
posted by latkes at 5:55 PM on January 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


"At the end of the school year all of LAUSD’s first-year teachers were laid off so that the school wouldn’t have to pay them over the summer. My wife was told that this was normal; one long-time teacher said that he had been laid off at the end of the year every year for the first eight years that he had been with LAUSD. "

This is actually pretty normal in a lot of states, and it has to do with the state budget cycle. In Illinois, we're required to notify teachers if they're being retained in March, so that they can start interviewing if they're not being retained. But Illinois doesn't pass a budget until June (IF. THEN.). So we have no idea what the budget it going to look like until three months after everyone needs to know if they're being retained, so basically all non-tenured teachers (those in their first four years with the district) get pink-slipped every summer. There's also a little bit of wiggle room in local property tax levies (if you levy directly for your local district rather than into a state pot), and in enrollment. Typically lower-income districts are more reliant on the state for more of their budget, and have much higher student mobility so are far less able to predict student enrollment. So basically we had to tell teachers if they had a job for next year in March, but 60% of our budget at my low-income urban district wasn't determined until June at the earliest. (And, worse than that, Illinois has only paid districts about 85% of what it allocates for them in the budget for YEARS AND YEARS, so even when Illinois gets around to telling you what your budget is going to look like, you can only assume you'll see 85% of the cash.)

It's a stupid fucking system, and some of the problem could be mitigated by requiring state legislatures to pass school budgets farther in advance. (A two-year rolling appropriation for schools has been suggested in Illinois, although nothing came of it.) But not all of it because you still have students mobility and enrollment surprises.

(Most teachers are 180-day positions, they don't get paid for the summer whether they're pink-slipped (laid off for the summer) or not. Some districts will let you choose a 10-month or 12-month pay cycle, but you're only getting paid for the summer if you're a 225- or a 240-day employee.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:47 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


Reading about this just makes my head shake. I'm a union representative at my school, and this means that I am part of a meeting every two weeks with the principal, to make sure that we are keeping to the Enterprise Bargaining agreement, and thus I have to know the agreement.

These are some things to work towards - I don't share these to gloat, but to share what is possible.
Class sizes of 25.
Contracts must end on the day before the following year starts (EG the school year begins on January 28, your contract will end January 27, ensuring you get payed over the summer.)

(This is in Victoria, Australia.)

Solidarity with the teachers- I hope that this is the first step to real change.
posted by freethefeet at 9:09 PM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]


✊🌹 from AZ. The teacher's strike here was one of the best things to happen to politics in this state -- I hope it stirs up CA like it stirred us up.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


✊🌹

It seems to be a common belief in the US that teachers should be happy they get to teach, no matter whether they can pay their bills or not.
posted by wierdo at 13:37 on January 14

Ah yes, the effect mentioned in David Graeber's article On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs (and I assume further expanded on in his book): https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

An excerpt:
"Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one's work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.

Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it's obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. "
posted by (bra) at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]






Good article from Socialist Worker about Tacos for Teachers, which The Whelk mentioned earlier in the thread:

Give us tacos and roses
posted by duffell at 5:39 AM on January 18, 2019 [3 favorites]




Never thought i would see an ASL interpreter signing along with a @UTLAnow brass band cover of rage against the machine to 30k teachers as socialists provide free tacos to all, but here we are”
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on January 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


Oakland's next!
posted by latkes at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2019 [3 favorites]




An agreement has been reached! Teachers are voting today, and school could be back in session tomorrow. I'm watching the press conference now, and everyone seems happy.

My kid, not so much....
posted by mogget at 9:58 AM on January 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Oh, that's lovely news! I hope the teachers get good terms.
posted by sciatrix at 11:08 AM on January 22, 2019


And now Denver!
posted by asperity at 10:34 PM on January 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


Anyone have word on solidarity funds for Oakland, Denver, or Dayton (Wright State)?
posted by duffell at 6:31 AM on January 24, 2019


Anyone have word on solidarity funds for Oakland, Denver, or Dayton (Wright State)?

I'm in the same union (AAUP) as the Wright State University folks, but at a different university. I drove up there today to do a couple hours of solidarity support on the picket line. The last page of the FAQ mentions a strike fund, I would email them to see how you can help.

The university's administration tried to get the State Employee Relations Board to find that the strike was illegal, but the SERB just sided with the union. They've been on strike for a week now, and supposedly negotiations will resume tonight. It's cold in southwest Ohio right now, and is about to get even colder by midweek. For the union's sake, I really hope they come to an agreement soon!

If anyone is within driving distance of Dayton, I'd really urge you to go out and show your support for a couple hour shift. The faculty on strike seemed genuinely grateful for community supporters on the line.
posted by mostly vowels at 10:39 AM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]




« Older Skin Cancer vs High Blood Pressure   |   Bharat Bandh - “General Strike” Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments