LA teachers vote to boycott

(Los Angeles, CA)— On April 22, Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) announced four optional “Accelerated Days” for all students and all C-Basis employees—about 80% of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) members.

The district chose to add these “Accelerated Days” at a cost of about $122 million without consulting with parents, teachers or other school workers. In response to this decision, 93% of UTLA members voted to boycott LAUSD’s first “optional” day.

United Teachers Los Angeles strike
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) officially walked off the job on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. More than 33,000 educators have a membership with UTLA. Union members work for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which is mired in its first employee strike since 1989. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

In lieu of participating in this waste of taxpayer dollars, an overwhelming percentage of UTLA members have voted to partake in a boycott and rally alongside community members on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, the first listed optional date.

Every student has a right to freely access a high-quality and equitable education that provides them with the skills necessary to build a thriving future. However, LAUSD has made clear that they would rather squander $122 million of precious education dollars and simply feign support for students.

These “Accelerated Days” are to distract from the district’s refusal to support an equitable education for all students by denying our children support and services proven to ensure student success. By arbitrarily scattering these days throughout the school calendar, real teaching and learning will be disrupted and dollars that were meant to be used on education will be wasted.

Additionally, LAUSD failed to meet its legal obligation to bargain in good faith with UTLA regarding proposed changes to the school calendar. Instead, the district unilaterally added these days to the district calendar without talking to parents or educators, perpetuating a lack of transparency and accountability with students, families and educators.

A Los Angeles Unified School District employee and UTLA member proudly show off why she is striking. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Lastly, the district also failed to respond appropriately to UTLA members who raised multiple practical concerns about the district’s proposal, which included questions on who would staff the proposed optional days, consequences for students who choose not to attend, and the impact on teachers’ performance evaluation for those who opt not to participate in this misuse of educational funding.

“I am so worried that my students who are already at a disadvantage due to learning disabilities will be put behind because of the disrespect to my instructional plan and to their routines that they are familiar with,” said Marcela Chagoya, special education teacher and member of UTLA. 

“Our students don’t need four optional extra school days, they need a district that is committed to investing in their future,” Chagoya added. “The lack of transparency or planning around these ‘Accelerated Days’ makes clear that the district does not have a plan for these days and instead sees this as a cheaper alternative to investing in smaller class sizes, and more social, emotional and health resources for our students. I am proud to stand with the 17,000 teachers and other school staff who will be boycotting this waste of educational dollars and demanding real investment in our students.”

The last two years have been unimaginably challenging for students, and it is erroneous to focus on four extra optional school days instead of the fact that even before the pandemic, schools and students were drastically underfunded.

Eighty-six percent of students served by LAUSD qualify for Foster/Homeless services, Free and Reduced Price Lunch, and/or are students identified as English Learners. Our students deserve an equitably funded education that ensures every student has the tools to succeed, regardless of their zip code.

LAUSD must reallocate the funds being used on the “Accelerated Days” to the programs, services and staff roles proven to have a long-term positive impact on student learning and career outcomes. This means ensuring every school site has a nurse on staff every day.

Currently, 80% of LAUSD schools do not have a full-time nurse, and 15% of schools in South Los Angeles have no allocated nurse time whatsoever. In addition to fully staffing every school library, the district must commit resources to the two factors proven to have an outsized positive impact on student learning: smaller class sizes and increased salaries for teachers to ensure long-term retention of quality educators.

Critical support must be given to special education programs and enrichment programs like arts, music, ethnic studies, dual-language programs, tutoring, outdoor education, and field trips. The mental health needs of our students cannot be overlooked and more counselors, psychologists, and school social workers must be available at all school sites. Lastly, the school district must seriously support the housing, environmental, immigration, and COVID recovery needs in our communities.

UTLA members on the frontline. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“Not only did the district refuse to be transparent with educators and families alike about this calendar change, they also want to waste $122 million on optional school days instead of funding services that would be more beneficial to students such as counseling, mental health supports, and extracurriculars,” said Mallorie Evans, educational audiologist and member of UTLA. We demand the district prioritize real solutions proven to best serve our students, families and communities. Our students will thrive when the district commits to meeting the mental, physical, social and educational needs of every student.”  

LAUSD has the opportunity to create a learning environment where students can receive individual attention, pursue their interests through extracurriculars, and have their mental, health and educational needs met by fully resourcing nurses, teachers counselors, psychologists, and school social workers.

Students are our number one priority and it’s time LAUSD’s budget priorities reflect this—instead of the false premise that four optional school days could bridge the disparities of years of educational underfunding.