If you haven’t heard, there’s been quite a bit of rumor swirling around about a potential teachers strike as LAUSD and UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) hash out their labor negotiations. What does this mean? What will happen? When will it happen? What happens to my kids’ school if there’s a strike? What if I have to work when there’s a strike? Will schools shut down? Who’ll watch my kids???
I know. I know. So many questions, so many unknowns. These are good questions. All of them. For all of us.
I received the following additional questions from a working mom today, which made me decide to tackle these questions and share my response more widely with all of you parents in the hopes that it provide you with some understanding of where we are at currently with this pending situation.
Q: As you have heard, the LAUSD is possibly going on strike. We have been told by the principal that they will still have classes that will be combined and taught by administrators should there be a strike. Further, they are saying that if we do not attend these classes that our son would be marked as absent. This seems illegal to me. Do you know who I can contact that would know about whether or not some of these suggested strike actions are legal?
In a perfect world, LAUSD and UTLA will be able to settle their differences, and come up with a workable solution through the mediation process they are currently going through, and avoid a strike altogether. However, UTLA’s members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, and if they feel they need to use that tactic to get what they want, they have agreed to stand together should their leaders enact that option. Latest word I heard was that if it did happen, the strike wouldn’t be until December, but who knows. The negotiations are done privately. At any point if the mediation process breaks down, then yes, a strike is a definite possibility.
Meanwhile, LAUSD, and specifically LAUSD School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, have assured me that should there be a strike, schools will NOT be shut down, they will bring in subs or whomever they can (administrators) to keep schools in session.
Also, understand that schools get paid by their ADA – Average Daily Attendance – money. This is just a fact of how schools are funded in our California public school system, which is why they are so adamant that attendance stay high, and if your child is not in school, why they insist you bring a doctor’s note or legitimate written excuse so they can still collect the daily attendance dollars. If a child is marked absent without an excuse, called an “unexcused absence,” schools are docked that child’s ADA amount for that day. So cumulatively, they are losing a lot of money due to absences. And this is why, at the end of the year if your child has more than 7 unexcused absences (you forgot to send the note!) they send you some threatening letter with a bunch of legalese under threat of prosecution that it is your parental responsibility to get your child to school or they will sue you. It’s all about money. And they are serious. [You can read all about excused and unexcused absences and attendance and Ed Code in this handy LAUSD tome, “School Attendance – A Parents Guide.” Or how chronically absent students cost a district millions of dollars here. And read the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office 2018 Update of K-12 Student Attendance and Funding.]
So, back to the labor issue. If there’s a strike and the majority of students walk out too – schools will not be getting paid their ADA funds multiplied by all the students who are absent during a strike. Meaning, the strike will not only affect teachers who will lose teacher pay for each day gone, but school budgets will also be impacted with lost ADA funds each day a strike wages on and students do not attend. It is NOT a win-win. It is quite a lose-lose for everyone, unless UTLA and LAUSD can end up cutting a deal they can live with and UTLA calls off the strike threat.
Complicating matters is that with the rising fiscal cliff of unpaid health and pension benefits careening towards LAUSD, taking up a significant portion of the annual operating budget and driving them towards near insolvency, if LAUSD doesn’t balance their budget, the State and County have already come knocking twice to warn LAUSD that they WILL take over if they cut a deal with UTLA that they cannot afford. So it is a dramatic time right now as both sides continue the mediation process. A process which is done between the negotiating partners, which we-the-people-the-stakeholders have no say or control over.
It’s worth mentioning that since Independent Charters have the flexibility to hire and fire and negotiate their own staff’s benefit packages directly, and have the autonomy to manage their own budgets and governance decisions, they will NOT be impacted at all should there be a strike.
But LAUSD neighborhood schools, Affiliated Converted Charter schools, Magnets, Dual Language Programs, Schools For Advanced Studies (SAS) Programs, Small Learning Communities (SLCs), Academic Criteria Schools (ACS), as well as other Specialized Academies within LAUSD, will ALL be impacted by these negotiations and potential strike.
I hope this explanation helps you understand the process and ramifications. I am holding hope that the strike is avoided and a settlement can be reached. For all our sakes.