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Opinion: I am an LAUSD teacher. That’s why my colleagues and I are going on strike

On Wednesday I saw thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District employees, students and families gather in Grand Park. There was a sea of ​​red and purple, a cacophony of whistles and bells, and the reunion of former co-workers happy to see each other again. But there was something else that I saw emblazoned on posters and T-shirts: the word “respect.”

If someone were to ask me what is causing the anger and burnout among so many in the field of education, I would have to say the lack of respect for teachers like myself and other critically important employees serving the needs of students in the second larger. country school district.

That’s why I attended the rally in Grand Park, and that’s why I’m going on strike Tuesday in solidarity with Service Employees International Union Local 99 to pressure the district to bargain for the future of our schools. Our schools couldn’t function without the 30,000 workers represented by Local 99, including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria and other food service workers, campus security aides, teaching assistants, and aides for students with disabilities.

While the issues facing teachers and staff go far beyond salary, it is still an important measure of the work we do. Many of our colleagues at Local 99 earn minimum wage for part-time hours, so they need to take other jobs and have to find assistance with rent and food. And teachers make considerably less money than most people with comparable levels of education. Allowing for inflation, teachers make less money than they did in the 1970s. And teacher training programs are hungry for students, as young people choose to leave the teaching profession due to low pay.

Educators feel undervalued in many other ways that directly affect our daily working conditions. We are asked to help our students, who have experienced violence, financial insecurity, dangerous migration journeys, homelessness, and racism, build resilience, but the struggles of school staff are rarely acknowledged.

Respect can also be shown by maintaining the infrastructure of our schools. While the district has built several new campuses, there are existing schools that are falling apart. At my school, roof tiles fall on students’ heads, staff and student restrooms are regularly out of order, and our student store is fenced off after being disabled.

Respect can also be shown by acknowledging that teachers are professionals who know their subjects well and may know better how to teach children than non-teachers. I wouldn’t tell my dentist how to do his job, just because I’ve been going to the dentist all my life. Why do so many politicians, business leaders, and parents think they know better about teaching?

That’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t learn to do better, but too often professional development doesn’t match our needs, or it’s just new jargon for things we’re already doing.

As a middle-aged teacher, I worry about my colleagues just entering the educational field and experienced teachers trying to raise young families. I see your dedication to your students and your school communities, but I also see your struggles paying rent, childcare, and other expenses. I wonder how long they can bear the frustration of not being able to meet their expectations due to the burdens placed on them by factors beyond their control.

LAUSD must not only invest in our students, but it must also invest in teachers and school staff. I would say that the first step is a simple word: respect.

Ingrid Fey has been a social studies teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for more than 15 years.