Too Much "On the Line": My LAUSD Strike Experience

Grace McCullough
2020 Berkeley Review of Education  
At first, we were being yanked around in regards to the exact dates of the strike. When will it be? Are we on strike yet? The strike was pushed back maybe three times before we began on a Monday morning. I was a part of a small group of people, including all of the four or five chapter chairs of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) at our campus, as well as two or three additional teachers interested in being involved. We wanted to support however we could to make the strike effective for our
more » ... fective for our school in South Los Angeles, and for Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Local District South, as well as for our entire city. I grew up in this city and was a student here, but as teachers here, we are aware that our district serves over 600,000 children and families in Los Angeles. So we knew there was a lot at stake. The year before, the doors had closed at the charter school I had worked at for three years. Neither the Los Angeles County Office of Education nor LAUSD were willing to reauthorize our charter because our test scores growth, which would affect our students long-term. Our parents, staff, students, and the entire community were devastated. Although the years we spent building that school were invaluable to me as an educator, I was grateful to join the ranks of unionized LAUSD teachers with the support of a district. I was shocked by our closure, but simultaneously I could see the disservice our charter school was doing to our students in terms of low test performance. I looked forward to joining a system of district accountability that had been tried and true for many years, such as LAUSD. At the charter school, I had been fortunate to work with several newer educators with passion and creativity. After our charter closed, these educators disseminated throughout various LAUSD schools and became key players in their schools' activism efforts. When the strike began, some of them became chant leaders, art/banner creators, early morning arrivers, and Facebook group coordinators for their various new staffs. At our charter school, we had worked so hard together, without much support or any certain rights. I was so grateful we were all finally part of a union that would support us to earn more of what we deserved, both in terms of working conditions and direct compensation. I was so happy that all of these young educators would now potentially have the guidance of more veteran teachers and the protection and feedback of district procedures, with basic structures-such as regular evaluations-that our charter school had not implemented consistently. However, as my first year in LAUSD began, I quickly learned devastating numbers. The second largest district in the nation-serving the second largest population of our country's children/students/citizens/next agents-of-change-has one of the lowest per-pupil and teachercompensation scales in the country. Amazing and incredibly sad. Every day on the line, we got angrier and angrier about how hard the district was fighting to keep basic and equitable resources from our students. We set up fold-up tables, our posters, signs, supplies to make new signs, food scraps and coffee donations, and each afternoon we stored them in one of our teacher's parents' house across the street from our site. Day by day, we arrived by 7:00 a.m., rain or shine (usually rain). First, we fueled up with coffee and whatever food was brought for us that day by parents, other teachers, or bought by donations from our friends and family. Then we walked around the perimeters of the school entrances, picketing for hours. Around 10:00 a.m., we would clean up and head out to a regional or city-wide action organized each day by UTLA. At the larger action events, we would meet up with strike participants from all over the city, gathering new energy to take back to our sites for
doi:10.5070/b89146516 fatcat:tqihgq5mczbzzlo4kg6bg3ruxq