Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plans to close its $400-million deficit largely on the backs of teachers and other school employees, according to the LA Times. Their budget plan includes 12 furlough days worth $144 million, an attempt to borrow (loot) $100-million from a fund that covers health benefits, and the deliberate underfunding of workers’ compensation and other obligations worth $60 million.
Parents will feel some of the pain, with the school year being shortened by another 5 days. This will force many parents to scramble for babysitting or call in sick to work in order to care for children who normally would be in school on those days. Teachers, of course, would not be paid for those furlough days. Teachers might also lose paid holidays.
If unions refuse to accept the plan, district officials would most likely lay off workers. Over the past several years, unions have consistently accepted furloughs, arguing that they are temporary and help avert layoffs. In reality, neither is true. Many teachers will be forced to accept a continuation of existing furlough days in addition the new ones, while many districts have laid off teachers and other employees despite the furloughs. According to the Times, LAUSD’s plan would still be $100 million short, forcing it to lay off employees anyway, and their actual deficit could be millions of dollars worse, since it does not take into account cuts the state may be forced to make as a result of Gov. Brown’s failed tax extension.
LA teachers face a tough choice: roll over and accept further cuts to their wages or strike to prevent layoffs and furloughs. The new furloughs amount to a pay cut of $3,000-4,000 per year. A strike could cost teachers more than this in the short term. However, there are several important reasons why a strike still makes sense:
- Every penny lost today reduces long-term income
- Every penny lost today reduces the amount of money available for retirement
- Every concession given away emboldens the boss to demand more
- Each time workers take a united stand and fight back forces the bosses to think twice before making future demands
- Every reduction to teacher compensation reduces the number of people willing to do the job, worsening teacher shortages and harming students