By Maisie Chin:
Despite what feels like the usual last-minute courting of parent support, CADRE parent leaders have elected to stand in solidarity with this strike as an organization. We know that striking teachers and sympathy striking school staff are all taking a profound and courageous stand not just for teachers, but for the soul of public education in Los Angeles as a whole, and at great risk to themselves and their families. CADRE has long based our work on the recognition that a quality education, dignity, and participation in the institutions that impact our lives are human rights. We know that human rights are at stake.
Organizationally we acknowledge at the same time that individual parents may be confused, unsure, split, torn, possibly apathetic to the issues represented in this strike. It is our experience that where parents land often depends on how schools have impacted each household personally, or on whom a parent knows best and trusts the most among school and district staff. CADRE’s practice is to humanize parents, to understand how intergenerational alienation of low-income parents of color impacts moments like these, and so we are not here to assume or judge. We instead view a historic moment like this as reason to also reckon with how many parents — especially South LA parents, and the community’s Black parents in particular — have been left in the dark or excluded from the tables of power where the future of LAUSD is truly being decided.
This strike and the simplified two-sided framing of the negotiations and debate leading up to it have been challenging for us at CADRE. As much as both sides are clear, both sides have also fundamentally confused parents with competing demands that seem to also be complementary, as well as not enough detailed information. A number of organizations have said the same, and CADRE is not standing alone in this gap.
But what we do know is that both sides are leveraging this strike for much larger agendas. And parents — beyond those in the know working closely with the District, school operators, or UTLA — deserve to have the full truth transparently, as well as the independent opportunity to rigorously understand what is at stake when aligning with any of the agendas in play. It is vital for parents to be given leeway, respect, and the tools to understand — and furthermore debate — the contexts and self interests behind the scenes of what is said publicly about this strike and to ask critical questions if need be, especially about their implications for racial equity and justice. In moments like this, engagement of parents at-large in the strike debate should not feel or appear token, expedient, or transactional, especially in South LA.
The intense courting of parents is evident on both sides. We at CADRE will be observing to see whether this moment similarly signals a change between parents and institutional players – UTLA, the District, school operators, charter companies. So much of the success of this strike and the future of LAUSD as a public institution is fundamentally dependent on parent support and solidarity.
For our part, UTLA’s demands and this resulting strike moved directly into the intersection with CADRE parent leaders’ interests. After forming as a parent-led organization to dismantle systemic racism and anti-Black parent racism in South LA schools, evolving to help lead the movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline, we at CADRE recognize that UTLA’s demands beyond raises are vital to the healthy, restorative school climates we have been fighting for since 2001. Smaller and more stable class sizes, which are only possible with sufficient staffing of educators, counselors, nurses, and librarians, as well as eliminating traumatizing, criminalizing practices such as random searches, are essential to any semblance of true implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior and Intervention Support, which we successfully pushed LAUSD to adopt in 2007 and our parent leaders have been monitoring ever since.
May the reality never be lost, however, that the moment after this strike ends will matter just as much — if our goal is a racially equitable school district. Even with complete victory by UTLA, the District finding a way to prevent financial insolvency, and a slowdown in charter expansion, South LA parents will continue to be unsure if they will be stereotyped, discriminated against, respected, heard, and truly valued when demanding that the additional resources once and for all close the gap between our schools and Black families. When asking educators critical but transformative questions about teaching and discipline practices to ensure their children are not being pushed out. When monitoring school climate and pointing out the continued criminalization of students that should be replaced with services instead. When demanding that our public schools meet the needs of our most marginalized community members.
But today, our parent leaders stand with LA’s teachers in LAUSD, and have directed CADRE to communicate our solidarity, with the radical hope that when we are on the other side of this mountain, both UTLA and the District recognize that there remains an immense amount of work to repair the harm caused by the alienation of South LA’s parents, in particular Black parents, for decades. A transformed school district must include transformed relationships between schools and South LA parents.
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