School Shutdowns 2.0: LAUSD school strike harms children (again)
Three years after the nationwide school shutdowns that locked millions of American children out of school, it turns out the Coronavirus was not nearly as destructive as the teachers unions. Starting today and through Friday, 30,000 members of the LA Teachers Union and SEIU Local 99, which serve 422,000 children, have walked out of school for three days. SEIU demands a 30% pay increase, and UTLA is striking “in solidarity.” While they claim they are striking for a pay raise, in actuality they want a pound of flesh.
During the pandemic, the head of the Los Angeles teachers union, Cecily Myart-Cruz, defending extended union-backed shutdowns famously said, “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words ‘insurrection’ and ‘coup.’”
She suggested that “learning loss” was a fake crisis. It quickly became clear that the teachers union was not interested in teaching children objective skills like math, science or reading. They only wanted to teach them how to be activists.
Now with plunging math and reading scores, the largest declines in many decades, especially among underserved communities, the union has no compunction about closing schools again. It is well understood that brick and mortar schools are essential. They provide structure and a safe space, skills and education that can propel a child to a future of health and prosperity or condemn them to a life in poverty or prison. The repeated closures feed the school to prison pipeline and it is certainly no secret to the unions that the very equity they claim to be fighting for is actually what they are destroying.
LAUSD has a 90% minority enrollment, 60% economically disadvantaged. These are the children who will be hurt most. Children whose parents cannot afford to stay home for three days may leave children at home unsupervised. These children may not eat. They may become abused. They may go into the streets and endanger themselves. They may burn in a house fire. This all seems to be collateral damage for the unions, which demand its members work less and get paid more.
Witness what is happening in 1600 schools across 650 school districts nationwide, which have permanently curtailed school week from five to four days. They claim teachers are “burned out” and need a day to recharge and go to doctor’s appointments. Who else has the privilege to cut their work week, especially when that work is more urgent than ever? Certainly not hundreds of thousands of LAUSD students whose parents are already struggling to make ends meet.As parents who fought to reopen NYC and Los Angeles schools and restore normalcy, the past few months have made it painfully clear the schools we fought for never really went back to normal. 2020’s COVID-related, union-imposed closures successfully locked children out of classrooms. When schools reopened they were virtually unrecognizable, first with masking, distancing and silent lunches, to post-COVID alterations including secret curriculums being implemented across districts to myriad excuses for keeping parents out of school buildings. And per a union-negotiated contract all parent-teacher conferences remain virtual through the 2022/2023 school year, effectively shutting parents out of schools yet again.
Today’s strike confirms that families can no longer assume schools will provide the essential services our tax dollars support. The COVID school closures drew a line in the sand, with unions on one side and parents on the other. If unions will not work towards ameliorating learning loss and staying open, nor acknowledge the primacy of parents in children’s lives, then parents must resist. Whether by supporting school choice to create a free market economy or by creating our own union for families. Today, teachers unions hold all the cards: they are also top donors to Democratic political campaigns. Parents must demand campaign finance reform so electeds remain accountable to voters, not special interests.
The teachers unions want a pound of flesh. We should take that as a stern warning that they will not stop at that.
Natalya Murakhver is co-founder of Restore Childhood, a nonprofit dedicated to ending COVID mandates for children and restoring athletics, art and academics across the United States. She is producing “15 Days . . . ,” a documentary on the school shutdowns.
Julie Hamill is an attorney, child advocate and school board member in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. She represents the Alliance of Los Angeles County Parents in litigation against the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of any organization with which she is affiliated.