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Striking LAUSD Workers Don’t Care About Kids?

A factually flawed Daily News article has the author contorting himself in a pretzel to confirm his anti-public education, anti-union bias.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
My wife and I proudly walk the picket line to support SEIU in this picture from the LA Daily News.

Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.

– Bernard M. Baruch

If you want to see examples of extreme selflessness, ask to tour one of the LAUSD’s Special Education Centers. The children who attend these schools are among the district’s most vulnerable students, with some requiring intensive care from their One on One aides. These employees will repeatedly wipe the constant stream of drool from a wheelchair-confined child’s face with patience while taking care to preserve the student’s dignity.

These employees are among the members of SEIU Local 99 who went on strike this week. While the union is in ongoing negotiations for salary increases for their members, they walked off the job specifically to protest what they allege are acts of illegal harassment by the District.

In the view of the Los Angeles Daily News opinion editor Sal Rodriguez, these employees should be “fired or subject to other sanctions” for daring to stand up for their rights. He also makes the ridiculous accusation that because they are exercising their legal right to strike, these employees, who lovingly care for society's most fragile members, “don’t care about kids.

If Rodriguez had bothered to research the facts about the union that led the strike, SEIU Local 99, he would have known that their workers include the “lowest-paid employees” in the district. Many are parents, struggling to feed their own children as they “feed, transport, and care for our students.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were considered essential employees who showed up to help run the District’s Grab and Go food program, ensuring that children, and their families, did not go hungry, avoiding food crises that plagued other cities.

The author did not acknowledge that it was the Special Education aides, janitors, bus drivers, and other support staff who were on strike, not the teachers represented by UTLA. While the teachers did respect SEIU’s picket line and walked with them in solidarity, they did so not because they “don’t care about kids,” but because they do care about the employees that are essential to making sure that schools run efficiently.

Admitting that it was not UTLA who went on strike would have detracted from Rodriguez’s thesis that teachers are failing the LAUSD’s students. Like a “Karen” blaming a McDonald’s cook who cannot make a five-star meal with the cheap ingredients that he is provided, the author blames teachers for not getting the results that he expects. Never mind that the district primarily serves underprivileged students who pass through the schoolhouse doors with the odds stacked against them. Ignore the fact that PROP-13 has caused our schools to be chronically underfunded for decades. Certainly, do not mention the fact that until this year, the school board has been controlled by a charter school industry that drains resources available for public school students while not improving education outcomes.

The author seems to take particular offense at the concept of tenure, repeating the false premise that it is “nearly impossible to fire” poorly performing teachers “once they get tenure protections.” First, achieving tenure is not a gift, it is something that is earned. If administrators are not doing enough to weed out teachers who are not cut out for the profession before they gain protection, then they should be blamed, not the system. Also, tenure is not absolute and there are ways to fire teachers as long as due process is respected. Without these protections, teachers lose academic freedoms and are subject to firing because they refuse to curry favor with administrators or run afoul of politicians seeking to enforce their political doctrine on schools.

The article ends with the bald-faced lie that “LAUSD’s enrollment numbers continue to decline and should continue to decline” because the District is failing to educate children. The decline in enrollment is due to long-predicted demographic shifts that have affected public schools and charter schools alike. It is a result of declining birth rates, lower immigration, and families not being able to afford to live in the city. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest. The Daily News loses integrity by allowing an “editor” to put this statement on its pages and should issue a correction.


Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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