“Enough is enough.”
It’s a common war cry for Los Angeles teachers on the picket lines since walking out on students Monday over union contract negotiations for higher pay and increased staffing.
It’s also essentially the same message 21 pastors from across the city delivered to the United Teachers Los Angeles on Tuesday, when the delegation urged union officials put the education of the district’s roughly half-million students ahead of their self-interests, according to LA School Report.
Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church pastor K.W. Tulloss, the newly elected president of the city’s Baptist Ministers Conference, told the news site the nearly two dozen church leaders who signed on to the letter “just want folks to come together.”
The ongoing strike is hurting parents who “don’t want to cross the picket line but need childcare,” he said.
“It’s all coming at the expense of the kids,” Tulloss said. “Kids are losing out on valuable education.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District hired hundreds of substitute teachers, reassigned administrators to the classroom, and aggressively recruited volunteers to keep schools open this week, but the strike has forced the district to suspend some classes and programs.
UTLA members have also banded together with the city’s socialist and communist activists to berate and intimidate anyone working to keep kids learning, with hundreds lining up outside of schools in attempt to block vehicles from entering, EAGnews reports.
LAUSD and UTLA negotiators have haggled over terms of a new union contract for nearly two years, and the dispute seemingly boils down to details regarding a teachers raise, support staff hires, and class sizes, which also dictate teacher quotas at the district’s roughly 900 campuses.
UTLA officials want the district to use $1.86 billion in reserves to fund their demands, while LAUSD contends the money is already earmarked to pay for pension obligations and other costs tied to the existing union contract. A mediator has already ruled that if the district grants all of the union’s wishes, it would be bankrupt within three years.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl described the strike as a fight for “the soul of public education” when he urged the city’s 30,000 teachers to walk out on students Monday.
Tulloss and LA’s other black pastors told LA School Report they don’t necessarily oppose the union’s objectives, but they question what UTLA officials are doing to fix the situation.
LAUSD negotiators increased the district’s last offer by $24 million, but no dice.
UTLA, meanwhile, is more focused on catchy protest slogans than real solutions.
“We are not opposed to the strike. I think we all agree that the teachers’ goals are admirable,” Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Rev. John Cager, the author of the letter to the UTLA, told LA School Report. “What we question is the strategy of not negotiating while you’re out on strike because you can’t solve any problems by not talking.”
Cager detailed his family’s struggles with the public school system and insisted the black pastors “want our schools to work better,” but he said they don’t believe the teacher’s strike is helping students, particularly black students who are already lagging behind.
“How are seniors transitioning out of school, 8th graders going to high school, 5th graders going to middle school, kindergarteners going to 1st grade, special needs students, and parents with children in state preschool going to make up time lost in a protracted work stoppage of their instructors?” Cager questioned.
The bottom line, Cager wrote in the letter: “the fortunes of African-American children do not improve on a picket line.”
The same day LAUSD released a copy of the letter to the public, UTLA officials agreed to resume contract negotiations, though Caputo-Pearl urged his members to continue with the protests. Union activists held a candlelight vigil in front of LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner’s home Thursday night, while others braved the rain to shout in front of schools and hold raucous rallies in city parks.
Contract talks resumed at LA City Hall on Thursday with Mayor Eric Garcetti mediating the negotiations, though Caputo-Pearl made it clear he’s not focused on any kind of quick resolution, KABC reports.
“We should be aware that we’ve been at this for 21 months, and there are some very fundamental issues that there are key differences on,” he said Thursday. “So an agreement is not going to take shape overnight, it’s not going to be a quick and easy process, but today, there’s been good and hard work done on that.”