Union Teachers Tell LA Unfied: ‘I Want My Money’
Ryan White | November 14, 2013
For the hundreds of teachers who packed a nearly block-long stretch of Beaudry Avenue in front of LA Unified headquarters late yesterday afternoon, the message to the superintendent was simple.
“Hey, Deasy, baby, I want my money,” the red-shirted crowd sang in a hip-hop inspired chorus at a rally organized by UTLA in its ongoing bid to win salary increases from the district. Their target: Superintendent John Deasy.
With teachers’ last pay raise dating back to early 2007, the union says a salary hike is long overdue, especially since last fall’s voter-approved Prop. 30 increased the per-student funds the district receives from the state. The argument that teachers are now owed their financial due after years of sacrifice was the rally’s dominant refrain.
“Who was responsible for getting Proposition 30 passed?” UTLA President Warren Fletcher asked the crowd. “We were!” the teachers roared back.
“Have we seen those dollars?” he asked. “No!” came the response.
In Fletcher’s view, the district is pouring the added Prop. 30 money into programs and initiatives rather than people. “They’re going to keep spending the money until we stop them,” he told a whistling, hollering crowd.
In addition to salary hikes, Fletcher urged a broader restoration of funds. “Those dollars need to go to lower class size. Those dollars need to go to restoring nurses, restoring libraries, restoring all parts of LAUSD so we can have a safe learning environment.”
The rally’s signs were more succinct: “Prop. 30 money is there, it’s time to share.” “I don’t want to strike but I will.” “Deasy wins, students lose.”
Several teachers in the crowd spoke of the hardship posed by the district’s use of furlough days in recent years. Others pointed to the rising cost of living. “Rent keeps going up, and salaries keep going down,” said Sydney Yarbrough-Baune, a teacher at Normont Elementary.
Donald Willis, a full-time special education teacher at Cimarron Elementary School, said he supplements his salary by teaching an aerobics class at a local gym and playing music at a church.
“I was at Target last night buying a turkey puppet so I can teach the letter T!” said Willis. Those kinds of expenses would be less of a sacrifice with more pay, he said, adding, “The money is there.”
A Virgil Middle School teacher voiced a similar complaint. “I’m basically barely making ends meet,” said Danny, declining to give his surname. “I think a lot of the media has villainized teachers. I don’t think they understand what we’ve given up.”