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Striking Los Angeles’ teachers take aim at charter schools

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 The growing number of charter schools in the Los Angeles County school system – and the school board’s support for them – is one of the most contentious issues in this week’s teachers’ strike in America’s second-largest school system.

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl last week accused district leaders of wanting “to starve our schools in order to justify cuts and justify handing more schools over to privately run charter schools.”

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School Superintendent Austin Beutner says that claim is baseless, but his supporters have strongly promoted charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.

A 2017 school board election that pitted teacher unions against charter school backers resulted in a pro-charter majority on the board.

About one in five Los Angeles students now attend charter schools, and their enrollment has continued to grow in the past decade while overall enrollment in the district has declined. The city now has more charter schools and more charter school students than any other school system in the country, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Most charter school employees are not unionized.

At a rally on Tuesday, teachers from three charter schools joined the UTLA strike, the first time that has happened. The teachers at those three schools run by Accelerated Schools, are represented by the UTLA.

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KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN
“What they’re demanding is basically fairness with other teachers in California, like having a voice and not being afraid of being fired the moment they use that voice on behalf of student needs or their own professional judgment,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Reuters. “They have an astronomical turnover rate.”

Thousands of protesters, many of them wearing red shirts and jackets in solidarity with their union, flooded the streets around the California Charter Schools Association in Los Angeles on Tuesday, chanting “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union.”

Charter schools have grown in response to demand from parents for school options. The schools usually offer different approaches than traditional public schools, including programs that emphasize math, science or the performing arts, according to the California Charter Schools Association.

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Nationwide, students at most charter schools perform about the same as their peers at traditional public schools, according to research from Data First at the Center for Public Education, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“However, research also shows that students in charter high schools score higher on college entrance exams and are more likely to graduate high school and attend college than similar students in traditional public schools,” it said.

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District officials have kept schools open in Los Angeles and will offer regular after-school programs, mindful that working-class parents cannot afford independent child care during the strike. The district has hired about 400 substitute teachers, a move the union has called “illegal.”

Many parents have expressed support for the teachers and only around a third of the affected half-million students are showing up at school.

Reporting by Bill Tarrant, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb; writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan to give up royal titles — ‘the hardest #Megxit possible’

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Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will give up their royal titles and public funding as part of a settlement with the Queen to start a new life away from the British monarchy.

The historic announcement from Buckingham Palace on Saturday follows more than a week of intense private talks aimed at managing the fallout of the globetrotting couple's shock resignation from front-line royal duties.

It means Queen Elizabeth II's grandson Harry and his American TV actress wife Meghan will stop using the titles "royal highness" -- the same fate that befell his late mother Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996.

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GOP senator tells home-state press that impeachment trial must be ‘viewed as fair’: report

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Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to local reporters on Saturday about her role in the upcoming Donald Trump impeachment trial.

Murkowski explained she would likely vote with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on an initial vote on whether to allow witnesses. However, she left the door open to voting for witnesses after House impeachment managers make their opening case.

"I don't know what more we need until I have been given the base case," she said. "We will have that opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no' ... and if we say 'yes,' the floor is open."

Overall, Murkowski said it was important for the trial to been viewed as fair.

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White House press secretary urged to do her job: ‘We don’t pay you to be a Twitter troll’

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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was blasted on Saturday over the confusion resulting from her refusal to hold daily press briefings.

CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy was alarmed that Grisham's assistant, Hogan Gidley, was forcing reporters to refer to his remarks as coming from a "sources close to the President's legal team."

Darcy noted that Trump had repeatedly questioned the veracity of unnamed sources, making it problematic for Gidley to demand to be quoted as such.

https://twitter.com/oliverdarcy/status/1218704788432572422

Grisham responded to the criticism and asked Darcy to "stop with the righteous indignation.

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