Despite the heavy rain, dozens of teachers, parents and students gathered along Fairfax Avenue this morning to raise public awareness on the fourth day of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s teachers’ strike.
Larry Tynan UTLA chapter chair and co-chair Jill Kalvrosky, who are leading the picket line efforts for teachers and parents at Hancock Park Elementary, told us, “its been wet and cold every day this week but we are dedicated,” said Tynan.
“I have been teaching for 31 years,” said Kalvrosky. “I went to public school, K-12, and my children attended public school, K-12; I believe in the future of public eduction. I’m fighting for the future of public education and they are trying to crush it. This not about our raises, this is about so much more than that.”
Kalvroksy said the strike is about more than class size, too – it’s about having school psychologists, co-location with charter schools and a host of other issues.
Tynan said negotiators are sitting down today but he’s not very optimistic that anything will be resolved.
“I am not very hopeful. I believe our superintendent, Austin Beutner, has an ulterior motive – he wants to stretch this out, he wants the district to go bankrupt. They have a $2 billion dollar surplus and he says we can’t use it, we have to save it for a rainy day for future expenses. And, obviously as you see, today it’s raining, but literally and figuratively we need it. There are high school with 49-50 students [in a class], elementary grades in the 30s, middle schools in the 40s, almost every other state has lower class size and we just want to be a normal level,” said Tynan.
“I went to Hancock Park Elementary when I was a kid. We had a school nurse, full-time, every day; we have a nurse here two days a week and we have to pay for one of those days out of our school budget; we had arts all year long. I only get 14 sessions of art all year [for students]. We just want to be normal!” said Tynan.
He and Kalvrosky said they love being teachers but they are weary. They say they have to “fight almost every year for basic things.”
Despite rain and challenge of the strike negotiations, Tynan and Kalvroksy and their teachers, parents and supporters were enthusiastic as were cars driving by constantly honking to show their support. They said the support for their efforts are growing each day. Teachers were planning to have lunch at the Writer’s Guild up the street, which has offered its conference room for teachers. And they were joined by two members of the Guild at this morning’s picket line.
“We are all in,” said Tynan. “We are still enthusiastic. This is week one and I think we will be same for week two, but if it lasts longer than two weeks, we are going be angry. We need the public to help put the pressure on Austin Beutner, who is holding things up.”
“Just today, another school board member broke ranks with Beutner and said, “there is money to improve our schools,”” said Kalvroksy.
Scott Schmerelson, School Board Member from District 3, issued a statement today opposing Beutner.
“LAUSD has a nearly $2 billion reserve. Of course, we have financial commitments and need to plan for rainy days. Nevertheless, I believe that Mr. Beutner could at least temporarily repurpose a larger share of this reserve, for the benefit of kids, that could be repaid when additional sources of revenue have been identified and secured. We also need to work with state officials to increase school funding and resources to reflect the values we hold dear as Californians but such efforts do not offer immediate solutions for our students,” said Schmerelson.
Negotiations are going on at City Hall as we publish this story. The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that talks will resume “under the aegis of Mayor Eric Garcetti, although Garcetti himself has other events scheduled for much of the day. His observer in the talks is likely to be senior aide Matt Szabo. The mayor has said he will step in as needed.”
Hopefully there will better news to report, at the very least dry weather on the horizon.