Thursday, January 17, 2019

Los Angeles Teachers On Strike -testimony

Every day this week, Carly Towne, 25, has pulled herself out of bed in the morning dark to walk a 7 a.m. picket line at Venice High School for two hours before heading to work. The bespectacled staff member of left-wing activist organization Code Pink is not a teacher, a parent nor a former L.A. Unified School student. Like the 100 to 150 other members of Democratic Socialists of America  who have showed up to schools every day this week in support of the L.A. Unified teachers strike, she’s simply a devoted socialist.
Members of DSA Los Angeles, part of an organization that has emerged in national politics as the burgeoning progressive wing of the Democratic party with robust New York City and Chicago bases, have become some of the most visible non-education-related participants in the teachers strike that has thrown LAUSD’s near 900 schools into disarray. For many of these mostly millenial age anti-capitalists, in full swing Friday morning leading a “solidarity forever” tune on the banjo and supplying teachers with free burritos, this “fight for the soul of public schools” at the center of national attention is a rare and meaningful opportunity to act on their leftist politics in real life. “Their demands are aligned with what we believe,” said Towne over blaring picket chants and car horns.
She cites grassroots organizing and regular text reminders as reason for the group’s consistency in numbers. DSA LA member Carley Towne at a Venice High School picket line on Friday, Jan. 18. (Photo by Ariella Plachta) “These 30,000 teachers deserve a wage that allows them to live in their city, but they’re also going on strike for a truly public education system and schools rooted in their community. It runs the gamut of things we want to do in as socialists.” As part of the Reclaim our Schools coalition of organizations to support the United Teachers Los Angeles strike, DSA has deployed around 100 members to North Hollywood High School, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and Venice HS every morning of the strike. Along with ISO and in partnership with Reclaim our Schools, members made headlines after raising over $30,000 to bring taco trucks to the picket-lines in a “Tacos for Teachers” GoFundMe campaign, and have joined marches to district leaders’ doorsteps including Superintendent Austin Beutner and school board President Monica Garcia. For the past five days, a staunch majority of UTLA-represented LAUSD educators have been on strike – picketing in front of schools and marching downtown – making demands for both improved conditions in public schools and higher wages the district says it cannot afford. On paper, predominant issues include high class sizes and the need for full-time support staff like nurses, counselors and librarians. Not on the negotiating table but central to the dispute between LAUSD and its teachers union is the expansion of the charter school industry in recent years. Independent charter schools, in which around 112,000 Los Angeles students are enrolled, are privately managed but publicly funded. While advocates say they give students more alternatives, critics allege their unregulated proliferation has undercut neighborhood public schools and led to a vicious cycle of district underfunding. Since Thursday, the parties have been back in closed-door negotiations at City Hall, with some moderation help from Mayor Garcetti’s office. They plan to continue negotiating through the weekend. Why would staunch socialists throw their weight behind this teachers strike? “We believe in having a voice in public institutions. In L.A. Unified, it’s a fight about public education and the front lines of a battle between public schools and charter schools,” said Max Belasco, one of the main organizers of DSA’s efforts during the strike. Ideologically, democratic socialists advocate raising the minimum wage, securing a national health system and right-to-strike legislation championed most famously by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and freshman member of Congress Alexandria Occasio-Cortez (D-New York

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