Updated: Mar 21, 2022
It has been a jam packed three years for the teachers of LAUSD since they went on strike in 2019. UTLA teachers who fought for more nurses/counselors/mental health professionals on campus (and won), continued the fight for police-free schools by supporting the organization Students Deserve and advocated for their students throughout the two years of online learning. At the start of 2019 on January 14th, teachers, parents, and community members all across LAUSD went on strike in the pouring rain with demands to better LAUSD schools and made history on January 22nd when an agreement was made and demands were met.
Here are just a few of the demands the teachers were fighting for:
Nurse at every school everyday
Librarian at every high school everyday
1 counselor for every 500 students and mental health professionals on campus
Lower class sizes (maximum 39 as compared 57)
Ethnic studies class
Biggest Win on Strike
Thousands of LAUSD teachers participated in a monumental event when they went on strike. The demands that were met after six days were even more historic for teachers and their students.
Ms. Youngblood was one of the many highly invested teachers at Eagle Rock who participated in the strike and when asked what the biggest win out of the strike Ms. Youngblood answered, “We showed the community that our fight is not a selfish one,” she goes on to say that “Yes - we [teachers] need healthy working conditions, but we are fighting for our kiddos' rights.” Mr. Kobaissi, another teacher at Eagle Rock agreed, saying that: “Teachers won the loyalty of the community.” Mr. Montemayor expressed that he felt the biggest win “was the elimination of section 1.5, which allowed LAUSD to increase class sizes whenever it chose to.” He later went on to explain that “Teachers got the District to agree that we must reduce class sizes so that students are able to be taught in rooms where students have space and teachers can pay attention to a reasonable number of students in the class.”
Changes at Eagle Rock Since the Strike
When LAUSD teachers went on strike there were multiple demands they had that would improve their schools and changes and improvements indeed started to occur after they won.
One of the teachers' demands was smaller class sizes, Ms. Youngblood said the reduction of class sizes made “it less overwhelming” on teachers and Mr. Hicks said the reduction of class sizes was “good for everybody, including students.” Mr. Kobaissi agreed and explained that Eagle Rock was able to keep “our nurse full time, we kept our librarian, and class sizes were lower.” Mr. Montemayor noticed “that teachers are a little less afraid to speak their mind and express their needs.
Ms. Hernandez, an alumni and now a teacher at Eagle Rock said that “being able to reflect on when I was a student here and now a teacher, I can see that there has been a big effort to make sure that they are complying with the class limits.”
One of the demands that UTLA won was Community Schools; community schools are schools that have wrap-around services like health care, eye care, and social-emotional services for students and community members.
Mr. Montemayor, a special ed teacher, spoke to this by saying, “What Eagle Rock High School needs is to be designated a Community School. This was one of the outcomes of our Strike -- create Community School throughout Los Angeles, including ERHS.” he went on to state the status of ERHS becoming a much needed community school by saying, “ERHS is not currently a Community School, but I know they applied before, but did not get it. ERHS should apply again.”
“When we fight… we win” was one of the chants that was yelled by thousands of teachers in the pouring rain when they went on strike and after six days won.
Ms. Youngblood expressed the appreciation she felt while on strike, “It meant a lot to have other unions and other teacher's unions come out and support our labor and work.” She continued, “a group of our students sang to us at the Eagles' Lodge. It was beautifully touching.” Mr. Hicks said, “Going downtown and being with all of those teachers in city hall and the square, that was pretty amazing,” Ms. Hernandez agreed by saying that “It was great to be standing there in solidarity and it felt really powerful to be a part of that movement.” she went on to say, “That day still lives on in my memory.” Mr. Hicks later said “People fought the fight and when we all came back it was almost like people were better friends.” Mr. Montemayor described how “empowering” it was for students to come out and consistently support them throughout the strike.
The Fight for Police-Free Schools
The fight for police-free schools is an ongoing battle to stop the target on black students all across LAUSD. Students Deserve is a student led organization that prioritizes black youth leadership to make black lives matter in schools. UTLA works along with this organization and is supporting their fight for police-free schools and the fight to invest in black futures. When asked about the fight for police-free schools led by students Ms. Hernandez said, “I very much am in support of students taking charge, they are the experts in what should and should not be going on in schools” she went on to say, “if they don't feel safe with particular individuals [police] being around the campus then we should listen to them and have them
lead the conversation.” Mr. Montemayor agreed by saying, “Schools are not prisons. Students are not prisoners.” He continued, “Using law enforcement to manage students is just wrong. It has to stop.” Mr. Montemayor went on to say, “We know there are better ways to ensure safety and keep students engaged in schools. We just have to be willing to invest in our students and the communities where they live.”
What’s Next for UTLA?
With a new superintendent, Alberto Carvalho we can assume the district will be undergoing changes and the teachers union will continue planning for the future to continue on bettering classrooms for their students. Ms. Youngblood said that UTLA will continue fighting for “social justice reforms for our communities.” Mr. Montemayor added to that by saying that they will “Continue to fight to lower class sizes; locate more resources and services at schools--Community Schools.” and “continue to fight against Privatization of our Public School.”
UTLA is continuing to fight the good fight for their students after their strike, they made history three years ago and continue to make history to better their classrooms for their students.