Will UTLA’s Strike Help Privatize Public Education in LA?

FIRST PERSON-I can't think of a better way of accelerating the corporate takeover and privatization of public education with corporate run charter schools than UTLA going on strike at this time.

This is not to say that the issues UTLA has raised leading up to the strike are not valid. However, going on strike at this time without a clear, mandatory plan to organize LAUSD parents to support the strike by keeping their children out of LAUSD schools has not been created. 

This could have been accomplished by giving these LAUSD parents a safe, organized place to send their children outside the LAUSD schools to attend "alternative classes" held in churches and other venues, organized by UTLA using retired teachers. 

If this were to be done and students didn't show up at LAUSD campuses during the strike, LAUSD would not be able to collect Average Daily Attendance (ADA) money from the State and federal governments. This would put financial pressure on the LAUSD administration to settle the strike quickly by giving UTLA and its teachers what they have been reasonably demanding. 

Under these circumstances, charters now pose a viable alternative for LAUSD parents if they don't want their children sitting in regular LAUSD classrooms run by administrators and non-teachers, who are more than willing to cross the UTLA picket lines. 

So why would UTLA's President Alex Caputo-Pearl and the rest of his union leadership take its rank and file teachers out on strike under these circumstances? Why would they not organize LAUSD parents by giving their children a safe alternative? The answer is both simple and sad. 

One need only go back and look at the period when then-Superintendent John Deasy gave Caputo-Pearl and seven out-of-classroom candidates release time during school hours to run for UTLA’s offices. This decision installed a leadership at UTLA that has been and still is in the pocket of the District ever since. 

Most of the leaders at UTLA are ex-LAUSD employees who are already fully vested in the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) or other benefits. In addition -- and most telling -- they are now employees of UTLA and not LAUSD with already vested benefits packages that will continue whether or not the strike ultimately destroys the union. One must wonder what silver parachutes Caputo-Pearl and the others have in place in the event of the final demise of UTLA. 

For the last 40 years, corporate profit motivated interests have carefully laid the groundwork for the destruction of public education. Their system puts corporate profits over what should be the only raison d'etre for public education: the preparation of America's future citizens. Our students must be literate enough to be intellectually capable of understanding what is going on around them in the context of our country’s history. Sadly, the means to give them that opportunity is on the verge of eradicated in our still segregated, inferior public schools in Los Angeles and elsewhere in our nation.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.comLeonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.