LA’s school unions are COVIDing children all over again

Los Angeles Teachers Strike
In this Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, photo, thousands of teachers marched and rallied in downtown Los Angeles. Teachers in the nation's second-largest school district will go on strike next month if there's no settlement of its long-running contract dispute, union leaders said Wednesday, Dec. 19. The announcement by United Teachers Los Angeles threatens the first strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District in nearly 30 years and follows about 20 months of negotiations. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

LA’s school unions are COVIDing children all over again

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Public sector unions in Los Angeles are COVIDing the city’s children all over again.

Unionized educational support workers such as bus drivers and teachers’ assistants in Los Angeles Unified School District have walked off the job, unhappy with an offer of a mere 23% pay increase.

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The district’s teachers unions, in solidarity with the strikers, have also told their members to walk out. As they showed throughout the COVID pandemic by pressing school districts to stay closed, teachers unions have no solidarity with the children they are supposed to educate. The core mission is once again being shoved aside. Many low-income parents may have to skip work and lose pay to supervise their children while unions strike.

The Los Angeles school district has lost 11% of its student population since COVID began — a sharp acceleration of a cumulative 25% enrollment decline over 10 years. This is partly due to the state’s population loss, which is partly related to the dismal schools. But there’s more to this than population loss, as a look at other school systems demonstrates.

For example, the number of publicly funded independent charter school students in Los Angeles has stayed level since COVID after increasing by 27% over the last decade. Student enrollment at the Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is up 4.6% since June 2020, even as local public school enrollment declines each year. Meanwhile, the doubling of new homeschool affidavits filed by California parents in the first year of the pandemic points to rapid growth as well.

So this is not about fertility rates but mostly about the people who work for Los Angeles’s traditional public schools refusing to do their jobs.

Residents of Los Angeles pay some of the highest taxes in the nation and get some of the worst government services. Police no longer fight crime, and the results speak for themselves. Formerly beautiful public spaces are filled with squalid and trash-strewn homeless/drug encampments. The problem gets worse the more taxpayer money the city and state throw at it.

And, of course, the schools are closed yet again.

California’s public sector labor unions, which were at the forefront in demanding unjustifiable long-term school closures during the pandemic, have permanently set back the education and lives of children in the last few years. Now, they are back to remind Californians of the stranglehold they have over the state. In Los Angeles, they get whatever special exemptions they want from whatever laws they want.

Teachers and educators who don’t want to stunt children’s development and ruin their prospects should take advantage of their rights under the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision and stop paying for union representation. Unfortunately, California will not ban public sector collective bargaining, but that will have to happen before normal government services are restored to the state’s residents.

The political power of unions in Los Angeles and elsewhere goes a long way toward explaining why the state is dysfunctional and lost more than 600,000 net residents, more than the entire population of Fresno, between January 2020 and July 2022. Middle-class Californians are pulling their children out of public schools and moving to Florida, Utah, and Idaho. It’s better than living under captive state and local governments run by people who constantly demand more while doing less.

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