Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

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.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Tlaib Leads Call for Biden to Take 'Commonsense Steps' to Aid Afghan Evacuees

"Our country has long offered shelter to those seeking refuge from catastrophe. Now is the time to continue that tradition and stand beside Afghan evacuees in need."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Huge Win': Green Groups Applaud Biden Move to Protect Minnesota Watershed

"You don't allow America's most toxic industry next to America's most popular wilderness," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·


Taking Aim at Predatory Equity Firms, Warren Leads Bill to 'Stop Wall Street Looting'

"Now is the time," asserted Sen. Bernie Sanders, "to end Wall Street's greed, protect workers, and create an economy that works for everyone, not just the 1%."

Brett Wilkins ·


Arizona Groups Demand Sinema 'Stop Obstructing' on Medicare Expansion

The diverse coalition called on the Democratic senator to back "bold drug pricing reform" and "critical improvements to Medicare's coverage" in the reconciliation package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Should Be a No-Brainer': Biden Pushed to Back Long-Term Child Tax Credit Extension

"Putting money in the pockets of those who need it most is good for the children and families receiving it, good for local businesses, and helps protect this fragile economic recovery."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo