Episode V: The Teachers Strike Back
by Jesse Mendoza
“Tell me what democracy looks like!” Ms. Barkley yelled.
“This is what democracy looks like!” triumphantly answered the crowd.
On the morning of February 22, both South Gate teachers and students joined together at the front of the school to support show support for those teachers striking in Oakland – which lasted from February 21 to March 1 – for the same reason we did in Los Angeles: better conditions for both teachers and students. On this morning, Alex Caputo-Pearl (president of UTLA), Jackie Goldberg (former member of the California State Assembly), and Randi Weingarten (former president of the United Federation of Teachers) spoke at South Gate High School, announcing their stance with Oakland, the state of West Virginia, and all other area school districts that want to secure the appropriate resources needed to teach the students of America. South Gate’s very own Ms. Barkley, Ms. Solorio, and student Carlos Ramirez had words to say about the strikes, sharing their personal beliefs and stories. “The Oakland strike is our strike!” Alex proudly exclaimed, but what exactly is the continuing issue plaguing the American education system?
For starters, the rising number of charter schools absorbing resources proves to be an issue in improving public education. Charter schools are educational institutions that are independent from a traditional state school district and receive government funds based on enrollment numbers. While there is debate on whether students preform better in charter schools, the truth is that they are more fueled on money than public schools are. Charter schools are seen as “cash cows” to many politicians and entrepreneurs, since there are many students on waiting on lists to enroll and the state is a guarantee payee for charter schools. The fact that they are independent institutions indicates a privatization of education for profit. This focus on money leads to many charter schools to deny the acceptance of special needs and English second language students and have less passion for academic exploration. Furthermore, the increase in money-hungry charter schools are sapping government resources that could go to public schools, and the increase in numbers are causing existing public schools to shut down. One of the goals of UTLA is to introduce a stricter charter cap to secure resources meant for public schools.
There is also the issue with the lack of school resources thought as needed. In the U.S., there is on average one school psychologist for every 1,381 students and one counselor for every 482 students. Only 39% of private and public schools have full-time nurses available for students. Here in South Gate, there are two school psychologists that work part time, one nurse, one college counselor, and classes with more over 40 students. While LAUSD experienced a strike recently due to these issues, it is a nationwide problem that many schools face. Jackie Goldberg and many more believe that “students are the future,” which is why they find it important to provide students with the best resources to succeed in school.
With rampant issues relating to funding, another problem educators in California indicate is the lack of taxes on the rich. California has the fifth largest economy, worldwide, with a gross state product of $2.747 trillion. California is the state with the most billionaire residents (124), along with many other wealthy individuals. However, these few privileged aren’t contributing to taxes as much as they could be. Currently, the state ranked 41st in education conditions compared to the other states, 39th in school finance, and 30th in achievement. Taxes help fund institutions like public schools, which is why teachers are perplexed how there is a lack of public-school funding in the wealthiest state in the country.
The LAUSD strike may be over, but the fight to secure the education U.S. students deserve is far from over.