Saving & Spending

Opinion | Saving Public Education Isn’t About Idealism, but Survival

There is a measure on next year’s ballot that would close Proposition 13’s corporate tax loophole and potentially generate billions more for schools. But the outcome is uncertain.

Race remains a factor. In the last decade, California’s demographics have shifted, with Latinos edging out non-Hispanic whites as the biggest ethnic group. “With the vast majority of our students coming from low-income neighborhoods of color,” Alex wrote in an op-ed essay in The Los Angeles Times last week, “racial discrimination” is the only way to describe the persistently poor conditions.

The strike began Monday in heavy rain, a rare event here (even in winter). Watching thousands of teachers thronging the streets in their bright rain gear drove home the seriousness of the issues they are striking for.

I can’t help but think of my husband, Alan, who died in 2015. He was a teacher for 37 years, and would have certainly been on the picket line with his colleagues. Alan had sharp criticisms for everyone — the union, the district, the political climate that underfunded schools, the parents who consistently failed to come to his parent nights.

But he mostly criticized himself. Though well-loved at Hamilton High, he never rested on his laurels. At the end, he was tiring physically, but not professionally; he struggled with depression and worried constantly about not being good enough, about not being able to do more for students who always needed more, especially students of color.

His kind of unsentimental and unyielding passion has characterized the Los Angeles teachers strike thus far. “There’s a moment here where we can build the kind of movement we need,” Alex said in a recent interview with his alma mater, U.C.L.A.

That’s a lot to hang on a moment, but Los Angeles remains a capital of ambition, a place to realize dreams that feel outsize or overdone in other places. If it can happen anywhere, it can happen here.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.