Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

About 35,000 Los Angeles teachers and their supporters plan to strike on Monday, after months of negotiations over their contracts stalled last week. (Photo: UTLA/Twitter)

Beginning Walkout, Los Angeles Teachers Find Support From Sanders—But Not Corporate Democrats

"The choice is very clear. You can be on the side of teachers or you can be on the side of Arne Duncan, Betsy DeVos, and those who want to privatize and undermine public education."

Julia Conley

As more than 30,000 educators and supporters prepared Monday to protest the Los Angeles school district's overcrowded classrooms, low teacher salaries, and refusal to hire sufficient support staff, observers noted how the lines being drawn reflect divisions within the Democratic Party regarding education policies: corporate-backed privatization versus strengthening public schools.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attacked teachers across the country for going on strike last year over their chronically low wages, claiming Oklahoma teachers were allowing "adult disagreements" to get in the way of "serving the students"—ignoring the fact that educators there walked out of classrooms last April largely because funding cuts had left schoolchildren with dilapidated textbooks and insufficient supplies.

But the fight over the future of education and teachers' rights in Los Angeles is revealing rifts among Democrats and progressives, with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan also expressing support for the school district while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stands firmly on the side of the educators.

Sanders has vocally supported other teachers' strikes in recent months, expressing solidarity with educators in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arizona last year as demands for fair wages and sufficient resources spread through several states. 

Meanwhile, Duncan, President Barack Obama's education secretary and a charter school proponent, released a statement over the weekend saying Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) "is spending half a billion dollars more each year than it brings in and is headed toward insolvency in about two years if nothing changes… It simply does not have the money to fund UTLA's demands."

LAUSD posted the comments on its Twitter account along with the claim, "The community agrees: a strike will hurt our kids."

As Common Dreams reported last week, the demands that the teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), has made of the district include a 6.5 percent raise, the hiring off more educators to ensure smaller class sizes, and more nurses, counselors, and librarians to support L.A.'s 600,000 public school students.

Supporters of the teachers have noted that L.A. school superintendent Austin Beutner, a Democrat, has a background in hedge fund management and investment banking rather than education, and that it shows in his proposal to divide the district into 32 "networks" to create a "leaner, more efficient" school system.

Duncan's support for the school district, which in fact has nearly $2 billion in a reserve that teachers say it should use to fund salary increases and new hires, including nurses and counselors, is indicative of establishment Democrats' harmful alignment with corporate interests—while traditionally Democratic teachers' unions are finding themselves supported mainly by progressives.

"Nearly every leader in this fight is a Democrat, with the two sides representing larger fissures within the Democratic Party about the future of public education," wrote Rebecca Klein at the Huffington Post. "What happens with this teachers strike could set the stage for how these issues play out in the 2020 election and beyond."

"The choice is very clear," wrote Nikhil Goyal, author of "Schools on Trial," on Twitter. "You can be on the side of teachers or you can be on the side of Arne Duncan, Betsy DeVos, and those who want to privatize and undermine public education. We need a clean break with the Duncan-DeVos agenda."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Peace Advocates Sound Warnings as Progressive Lawmakers Go All-In for $40 Billion Ukraine War Package

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine must be condemned," says one activist. "But the administration has been telegraphing for weeks that its war aims now go well beyond defending Ukraine."

Brett Wilkins ·


Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett ·


Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·


Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo