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My Children’s Schools Are Facing a Labor Strike ~ This is How We Are Handling It

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] am a parent of two students at LAUSD public schools. Life is hectic enough without having to prepare for a school strike. I can barely figure out what’s for dinner every night. With work, school, sports, and carpool, a strike would affect everything we do. So we thought it would be a good idea to have a game plan for our family.

More than 30,000 teachers and staff in the Los Angeles Unified may go on strike, leaving close to half a million children without a teacher in the classroom. Teachers are fighting for higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more counselors, and nurses. My children, an eighth grader and a tenth grader, have been piecing together information from the media and word of mouth because students were given few details about what to expect from the school.

In an effort to prepare our family for the impending work stoppage at the schools, I organized a plan with my children that would address all of our concerns. This is what we did.

Investigate

I sat down and with my kids we investigated both sides of the issue. We researched the teachers’ concerns versus the district’s viewpoint. The teachers want a better learning environment for their students. The district claims that giving the teachers what they want will ultimately bankrupt the district. This unresolved conflict is the reason for the strike. We talked about the environment at the school and how the outcomes could affect them in both instances.

My son said if the teachers strike and get nothing from it, that it will be a waste of time.  If the teachers win, he said he will benefit by having smaller class sizes and more supportive staff. Currently there is also only one nurse and one librarian at his high school with 2,600 students. The library is closed on some days and the nurse is not always on his campus.

Logistics

My children are old enough to stay home when my husband and I go to work. Many families with younger children will have to take their children to school if the parents work, and they have no daycare options. There are a high number of low-income students who attend LAUSD who rely on free breakfast, lunch, and dinner for food. Some families will take their kids to school to ensure they are fed.

RELATED: Strike Postponed Until Monday ~ Teachers Strike Update

Photos courtesy of Laura D’Anna.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Marquez.

Discussion

We discussed the pros and cons of staying home versus crossing the picket line. For us, we look at the fact that schools are paid by average daily attendance and by choosing to be absent, the district will not be paid. This can give the teachers an advantage if enough students do not attend school by showing the district that families support the teachers. On the other hand, the district will be saving money during the strike as they will not be paying picketing employees. The district will be paying substitute teachers during a strike.

By missing school, it can further financially cripple the district by withholding even more funding. Attending school during a strike does not mean there will be actually any learning happening. With a limited number of substitute teachers and staff, students will be likely placed in big groups for easier supervision. Teachers will not be leaving lesson plans or work for the substitute teachers.

Don’t Judge

[dropcap size=big]E[/dropcap]very family makes a decision that is right for them in regards to crossing a picket line or not. There are a variety of factors that weigh into that choice. It is nobody’s business what other people are doing, and my children understand this. There are students like seniors in high school who may cross the picket line out of fear. They have been told by the school all year that if they have excessive absences they cannot attend grad night or walk the stage for graduation. Without a formal statement from the school, some students are planning to attend school so they do not miss out on these once in a lifetime experiences.

Advocate

Students and parents can contact the district and urge them to try to resolve their issues, so a work stoppage is avoided for the sake of the students. Families are welcome to make signs and walk the picket line with teachers. They can also donate canned or dry food for low-income families who may experience additional burdens during this time. Slap a UTLA bumper sticker on your vehicle if you have one, and are OK showing more public forms of support.

RELATED: Who Is L.A. Teachers Union’s Chief Negotiator? ~ Meet Arlene Inouye

Plan Ahead

If your kids are not attending school, look at possibly adjusting work schedules – if that is an option – to spend time at home. Children can continue learning by using free online learning sites like Kahn Academy, or by visiting their local Boys & Girls Club for no-cost tutoring during open hours.

This can be an excellent time to visit local museums and libraries. Metro is offering free rides on light rail, buses and subway lines to students with school ID from 5 am to 7 pm. The Peterson Automotive Museum is offering four children’s tickets free with the purchase of one adult ticket, students must show school ID. Students can learn about the physics and mechanics of automobiles and enjoy hands-on workshops. The Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits are offering free admission on weekdays to all LAUSD students and chaperones during the strike.

Why I Support the Teachers

I support what the teachers are doing. My son’s high school counselor at San Pedro High School has 450 students to supervise. Teachers have to raise funds on their own on sites like DonorsChoose for needed items in their classrooms. Many times, they end up asking parents to donate items like facial tissue and cleaning wipes, but often end up purchasing the supplies themselves.

Both of my kids’ schools are only accessible by stairs in some areas with no ramps. Classrooms do not get cleaned by janitors, so teachers do it themselves. The teacher’s demands are only the tip of the iceberg of LAUSD dysfunction.

My children are old enough to make the decision if they want to cross the picket line or not. I have left it up to them, and they both want to stay home. That is what I would do. However as teenagers, I think they are just excited to have a day off.

RELATED: ‘Tacos For Teachers’ Seeks to Feed Teachers If They Hit the Picket Lines

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