- Austin Beutner
By making the decision to keep schools open during the strike last week, Superintendent Austin Beutner and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board lost over $125 million in revenue from the state. This decision was made despite the LAUSD’s own admission that they could not keep all students safe during a strike and a warning from the union representing principals that the situation in the schools had become “dire.”
Of course, Beutner knows that the closing of the schools would leave him at a disadvantage in the talks to end the strike, but that does work as a talking point in a District that publicly declares “Kids First.” He has, therefore, concentrated on the fact that “students and families are counting on our schools to stay open. Our schools and employees provide students with a shelter from the rain, a safe space, and a warm meal. For many of our foster and homeless students, our schools provide students with the only constant in their lives.” That is a bold statement coming from the head of a district that reportedly tried to block parents from using after-school programs if they honored the picket line during the school day. It also ignores the fact that the District could have made other arrangements for providing needed services to students during a strike.
Even without the strike, our schools would have been closed today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. While it is clear that King was a great man who changed our country for the better and deserves the recognition of a federal holiday, the fact is that most working parents will not receive the day off. While they depend on schools to be open while they go to work, the schools will be closed. School buildings will not provide shelter from the weather. Some children will be unsupervised. Meals will not be served. The constant of the school day will be broken.
Is closing our schools the best way to honor King, Ceasar Chavez, Veterans or Admissions Day? Wouldn’t students be better served by using a productive day at schools dedicated to learning about the meaning of the day? Buetner says that families are depending on schools to be open. Is that every day or only when it serves his needs?
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.