Los Angeles Teachers Union: Defund Police, Tax Billionaires, and Give Us Medicare for All as Required Conditions for Reopening Schools

The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union recently released a research paper with a list of “necessary conditions” it insists “must be met” before the schools in Los Angeles are allowed to reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second-largest school district in the nation, with over a half-million students.  The UTLA represents over 35,000 teachers in that district.

On July 10, UTLA reported that 83% of members who responded to an informal survey agreed with the view that the L.A district’s schools should not re-open on August 18 as scheduled. Subsequently, the school district announced that L.A. would only reopen its schools using remote learning.

But the union’s demands for reopening the schools range from the mundane to the bizarre. Its research paper includes COVID-related precautions such as masks and social distancing, but then ventures into the political and social program realms.

For example, the list includes such things as a federal financial bailout, Medicare-for-all, increased property taxes, a “billionaire tax” of 1% on “unrealized capital gains” that is projected to raise an additional $10 billion, and a “millionaire tax” on large incomes that will raise an additional $4.5 billion.

Under a heading titled “Local Support,” the demands veer off into a variety of social issues.

Defund the police. The paper asserts, “Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people and is a serious public health and moral issue. We must shift the astronomical amount of money devoted to policing, to education and other essential needs such as housing and public health.”

Housing Security. The union demands housing for what it claims are the 15,000 homeless students in the district.

Moratorium on Charter Schools. Many public-school teachers’ unions dislike competition from charter schools, and UTLA is no exception. Charging that charter schools “drain resources from district schools,” UTLA demands a moratorium be placed on the creation of any new ones.

The union seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of former Obama chief of staff and Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” in a 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“This crisis presents an opportunity to create a new normal that supports all students,” the union asserts. “As it stands, the only people guaranteed to benefit from the premature physical reopening of schools amidst a rapidly accelerating pandemic are billionaires and the politicians they’ve purchased.”

It remains to be seen whether the union’s “necessary conditions” to reopening the schools actually get very far. The LAUSD has already cut its police budget by $25 million in response to the George Floyd protests, which UTLA labeled a “huge first step.” The massive redistribution of wealth the rest of its demands entails, however, may be a little more difficult to sell to California’s elected state and federal representatives.

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