L.A. Teachers Want Free Child Care Before Returning To In-Person Learning
Plexiglass dividers surround desks as students return to in-person learning at St. Anthony Catholic High School during the Covid-19 pandemic on March 24, 2021 in Long Beach, California. - The school of 445 students implemented a hybrid learning model, with approximately 60 percent of students returning to in an in-person classroom learning environment with Covid-19 safety measures including face masks, social distancing, plexiglass barriers around desks, outdoor spaces, and schedule changes.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The Los Angeles teachers union is demanding that its teachers be given free child care for their own children before being forced to return to in-classroom instruction, according to a Monday report from Politico.

California currently lags behind most other states in offering students a return to classrooms following a decision to make instruction remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to EdSource, with “much of the state” remaining in distance learning, “even as the majority of the country’s schools have started welcoming students back to campus in some capacity.”

“California is among states with the highest percentage of schools that are not yet offering fully in-person instruction, according to the department of education data, which was collected Feb. 22 through March 12 of this year. About 82% of elementary schools are not open for fully in-person instruction in California, topped only by Washington (91%), Oregon (92%), and Maryland (92%),” EdSource notes.

California teachers unions are largely to blame for the delay, with the California Teacher’s Association telling media as recently as late March that they believe California schools are not equipped to allow for safe in-classroom learning, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying such arrangements are low risk.

Toby E. Boyd, president of the CTA, said in March that schools “must follow through on implementing all safety measures including vaccinations, wearing masks, hand washing, sanitization, adequate ventilation, and testing and tracing” before teachers will feel confident in returning to in-person instruction.

“We can’t let our guard down now,” Boyd said. “Using these safety protocols, we can regain the confidence needed to teach and learn in classrooms. Additionally, public health officials have rightly cautioned, the new variants are a concern.”

On Monday, Politico reported that the L.A. teachers union has added a new request largely unrelated to the pandemic: free child care.

“California teachers are ready to go back to the classroom. But the state’s largest union has a new ask: free child care for their own kids,” the outlet said. “The demand is salt in the wound for parents who struggled with distance learning at home amid intense reopening negotiations that have dragged on for a year.”

The demand comes specifically from United Teachers of Los Angeles. “The union is calling on Los Angeles Unified to allow educators with young children to continue working from home until the district can provide them subsidized child care and a proper child care program for teachers by the fall.”

UTLA does say that they are not making free child care a condition of returning to classrooms, but that they want “options” for teachers, even though other essential workers are not offered child care.

“As millions of working families — including frontline workers in hospitals, grocery stores, food processing plants, sanitation, transportation, and other professions — have been forced to leave home for work and scramble to find childcare throughout the pandemic, it’s become more clear than ever that we as a society must do more to provide affordable childcare options for families with children too young for school,” UTLA said, placing teachers, who did not work in dangerous conditions through the pandemic, in the same group as front line essential workers.

At least one UTLA teacher defended the classification in an online petition demanding child care.

“Yes, we know healthcare and essential workers have faced these challenges all year. However, a competition to the bottom is not in any of our best interests,” she said. “We do not want anything we don’t believe everyone is entitled to employer support for children and families.”

On Monday, parents who say they are “fed up” with UTLA and the L.A. school district dragging their feet on returning to classrooms, sued both the UTLA and the L.A. United School District to force them to return to work.

“UTLA used the tragedy of COVID-19 as an excuse to extract concessions based on its preferred personal and ideological policies by holding the education and future of LAUSD’s children hostage,” a complaint, filed in court Monday says. “UTLA was willing for teachers to remain out of the classroom, and children, including Plaintiffs to suffer the mental, social, and academic consequences.”

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