I walked the line in ’89. I was a teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District when the teachers’ union (UTLA) led the last teachers’ strike. Now I’m a professor of education, seeing things from a different angle. I’m happy to report one big difference between 1989 and now: LA teachers are asking for much more than a modest and well-deserved pay raise for themselves. They are advocating for the rights of children and families in a public education system that has been severely eroded over the years since I left the classroom.
It sure would be nice to see teachers have a more sophisticated analysis of what is being done to them. The origins of the decades long attack on public education has its roots in the neoliberal manifesto called the “Powell Memorandum” of 1971. (Lewis Powell, when he wrote it was the CEO of RJ Reynolds (tobacco) and was later appointed to the SCOTUS by Nixon.) The attacks on public education is part of a class war against the gains working people made thru the struggles of the 1930’s thru the early 1970’s. Disastrously, the leadership of teachers’ unions has - more often than not - been a collaborator in this process.