My humble thoughts on UTLA's vote on the Tentative Agreement

Post date: Jun 18, 2012 1:27:47 AM

I want to thank United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) for being the only thing standing between our communities and Eli Broad's malevolent designs. For better or worse, UTLA members agreed once more to take a drastic pay cut so that they could save the jobs of many of their colleagues, who, in turn, serve our community. Educators have made these amazing personal sacrifices year after year, while simultaneously being vilified as greedy and self serving by the corporate press, unprincipled politicians, and the avaricious opportunists in the so-called non-profit sector. Notice too that none of the no-excuses reformers ever make sacrifices of any kind on behalf of our communities. The only "shared sacrifices" I've seen are by working people, and more to the point, predominantly by librarians, counselors, teachers and other educators.

On the other hand, I want to express my deep sorrow for all the schools being closed, programs being shuttered, educators who are still losing their jobs, and people being robbed of the educational opportunities. Opportunities they would have had if the district actually prioritized education over squandering money on discredited vanity projects and giveaways to wealthy charter operators and their venture capitalist backers. While the agreement saves a portion of critical programs like Adult Education and Early Education, it also abandons many. For example, the Mary Lind Foundation, a place I do much volunteer work at, is losing their computer and GED programs due to these cuts. As always, the most vulnerable in our district are denied.

I rather appreciate Mr. Fletcher's statements about the agreement. His message that "LAUSD has shown its willingness to be cavalier about the needs of schools and students" needs to be promulgated far and wide. Moreover, such messages have to be followed up by tangible actions. The community desperately needs partnership with UTLA.

I know many UTLA members who support the community, because I constantly work with them on various projects and activism. I don't worry about them, since I know that they are principled and see a bigger picture. I hope that both the contentiousness and closeness of the UTLA vote will be seen as a call to action by the rest of the union that they need to unite with the community to fight these neoliberal policies that are both destroying UTLA and threatening to eliminate public education altogether. So in a spirit of unity, I hope to see many more of you working to build a social justice union that is deeply rooted in your school sites and the communities where those schools reside. I don't feel it is hyperbole to say our fates are inextricably tied together.

Advocating public education and social justice

Robert D. Skeels