According to Los Angeles Teachers union President Cecily Myart-Cruz on Friday night, 91% of the union’s members voted to stay out of classrooms until the union’s demands are met. A total of 24,850 UTLA members cast ballots, she said.
“That’s powerful,” Myart-Cruz said. “UTLA members have voted overwhelmingly to resist a premature and unsafe physical return to school sites.”
Deadline hears that the board of supervisors for the neighboring Anaheim Union School District also voted down a return to school. That vote came Thursday night.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $6.6 billion legislative package earlier Friday that offers incentives for schools to resume in-person instruction for students up to second grade by April 1 and provides funds to help recoup learning lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, possibly by extending the school year.
The legislation creates a $2 billion incentive pool, with money doled out to schools that reopen campuses for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, as well as high-need students of all ages. The money will go toward safety improvements, such as ventilation systems and protective equipment.
The proposal does not order schools to reopen, but those that fail to do so by April 1 will lose 1% of their share of the funds for every day they miss the deadline.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner previously set a target of mid-April for reopening elementary schools for in-person instruction, but the UTLA union has not agreed to that date, which it says is subject to labor talks. That means Friday’s vote will likely cost L.A. a portion of the $6.6 billion in incentive money.
The union is demanding that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated before they return to in-person instruction. It also does not want campuses to reopen until Los Angeles County moves out of the “purple” tier. Union officials argue that while the countywide transmission rate has dropped below the 25 per 100,000 residents threshold, many neighborhoods the LAUSD serves are lower-income, and have rates that are three times as high as more affluent communities.
UTLA’s members approved a statement of opposition to reopening campuses, saying in-person instruction cannot resume until the county is in the “red” tier; all school staff returning to in-person work “are either fully vaccinated or provided access to full vaccination”; and safety measures are in place at schools such as protective equipment, social distancing, ventilation and “a cleaning regimen.”
The red tier demand may be moot, anyway. Numbers in L.A. County are expected to reach the red tier threshold next Tuesday. They then just need to stay there for three consecutive weeks to qualify LA for the reopening perks associated with the tier. That could put L.A. in the red — so to speak — by the end of March, in plenty of time to reach Buetner’s reopening projection.
The UTLA announcement comes about two days after organizers of a recall effort targeting the governor announced that they had collected 1.9 million of the 2 million signatures they think they will need to ensure a vote of confidence in the governor’s performance.
Newsom has moved rapidly this week to loosen longtime Covid-19 restrictions on schools, businesses and even on Friday his longtime bugaboo theme parks.
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