On Wednesday, dozens of parents, kids, and other supporters in favor of reopening schools in Southern California protested outside of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) building in Los Angeles.
A rally outside of the LA teacher union headquarters
Members of the Parent Union, who describe themselves as “Parents united to guarantee an outstanding public education for every child”, demanded that Los Angeles area public schools should reopen, that Governor Gavin Newsom should not decide on which schools should or should not open, and that parents should be given money for education by the state as their taxes are no longer going towards an in-school system they were promised.
“We need to see open schools or give money back to parents,” said Ceci Iglesias, founder and president of the Parent Union. “Kids don’t need masks, they don’t need at-home learning. Kids need to learn in schools, because if they’re not, parents should decide where that money goes to. Teachers don’t deserve it if they aren’t teaching at school.”
“We founded the parents union for parents to have the ability and power to say what they want. What we want is for unions to get out of the way and stop influencing the Governor. It’s all about unions wanting to do what they want to do. The Governor should give money directly to parents for them to decide how to educate their kids. All the teachers unions care about is themselves.”
Education criticism from parents, advocates
Other speakers spoke out against the UTLA union itself, specifically over a list frequently referred to as “demands” by the union to achieve before they return to work. Dr. Jeff Barke, a primary care physician and former Los Alamitos School board member, mentioned the list during his speech.
“Sending our kids to school. That’s where they belong and that’s where they need to be,” explained Dr. Barke. “But our Imperial Governor thinks he can rule in Sacramento and know what’s best for 1,000 different school districts.
UTLA put out a list of ransom demands. If this is about what teachers want before they can go back in, it’s not about education. If they demand defunding police, it’s not about education. If they demand Medicare for all, it’s not about education.
Let [everyone] know not to be afraid of the virus. It has been shown to [affect] older people. But for the young and healthy, it’s nothing to fear.”
“I work in a field of freedom. I want to help this state. I don’t believe this state is over. This state is worth saving.”
“People in California want freedom to make decisions for their children, not what teachers want. And when they demand ‘to end charter schools’, ‘defund police’, ‘medicare for all’. What does that have to do with schools?”
“People are getting the virus from adult to adult contact, not kids. It’s absolutely ridiculous we are shutting down the country over a virus that over 99% of people survive.”
Other speakers also discussed COVID-19, stressing that the virus was being blown out of proportion by many in the media.
“According to the World Health Organization no child has ever passed COVID-19 to an adult,” said Leigh Dundas, a human rights attorney. “They aren’t at risk of dying and pose no risk of spread. They pose no risk.”
Teachers, union supporters skeptical of Parent Union rally claims
However, while the majority of people in the crowd supported the parents union, some were more skeptical.
A UTLA teacher in the crowd, who didn’t want to say her name aloud due to many protesters nearby, spoke to the California Globe and said that every speaker was not basing their arguments with facts.
“The thing that’s bothering me is that every single one of these parents or speakers is referencing a list of ‘demands’ we want to go back to teaching, including defunding the police and getting rid of charter schools. We actually sent out a press statement a month ago showing that these were not demands. We just put together a list of possible things that could make schools safer at the federal, state, and local level. It was a list of ideas to discuss, not demands.”
“Some speakers have also argued against masks, like saying kids are going to faint from them, and saying that the six foot rule doesn’t work, even though the CDC backs it.
“Many of the protesters don’t even live in LA County, let alone LA. Look at their speaker list for example – it’s largely Orange County.”
“I understand their frustration and that they want their kids back to school. Having them at home all the time can be tiring, I know. But these are extraordinary times. And we need to understand that kids can catch and spread COVID-19, masks do help reduce and slow the spread, we’re not holding anyone hostage with demands, and although we’re not exactly warm towards charter schools, we’re not saying to get rid of them outright, only that we should stop opening up new ones while COVID-19 is a threat.
“If there is anything to get out of this today, it’s that teachers and parents should work more closely to finding solutions. Otherwise, we’re going to get a lot more rallies and frustrated parents.”