I Almost Sided With the L.A. Teachers Union Until I Remembered They Weren't Striking for Kids

Jan 25, 2019 12:00:00 AM


Outrage: Teachers Strikes Aren’t for the Kids!

This video about why teachers in L.A. were going on strike had me on the union’s side for a second—until I heard multiple comments throughout about charter schools stealing funding from traditional public schools. So here I am, back on mission to blast the unions. https://twitter.com/ajplus/status/1088081098704326661 L.A. just ended their strike. Denver is set to begin one. If a year or two went by without the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) threatening to strike, I’d think hell has finally frozen over. But here we are, fresh into 2019 and teachers unions are doing what they’re good for— using bullying tactics and riling people up if their contract demands aren’t met. And for the past year, teachers have been staging one-day demonstrations all across the country. I get it. If teachers don’t stand up and advocate for what they need, who will? But, in advocating for themselves, are they really advocating for parents and students? Because, as a parent, Evelyn Alemán doesn’t believe she has a seat at the table. First thing’s, first: Parents want good, affordable schools. Period. That’s why some of them have chosen charters—with more than 6 percent of public school students enrolled in them. If traditional public schools were adequately serving all students, there would be no need for charter schools. So from where I see it, an argument against charter schools is an argument against parent choice and student need. How is that advocating for families? Funding is a recurring issue and soundbite in Chicago but yet, the CTU is unwilling to waver on the state’s contribution of 7 percent to their pensions to possibly free up money for per pupil funding. Not to mention the raises they demand every couple of years while being the highest paid in the nation. And the CTU has repeatedly said that they’re advocating for students but, as Allison Jack tweeted, they need a reality check. https://twitter.com/applejack32/status/1086484936666816512 Also, more Black parents and students have expressed that they’d like to see more Black educators in classrooms. So if it’s known and agreed that Black students will benefit from this then why isn’t there a more aggressive demand to increase educator diversity on unions’ agendas? To top it off, we haven’t heard much noise or protest from the unions over Trump’s civil rights, discipline and lunch rollbacks. And if you’ve noticed, I talk about this every week because it really pisses me off that the lives of students are literally at risk if they’re not protected by these laws. Look, this isn’t an attack on teachers—they’re absolutely essential to the function and success of education and should have everything they need to educate our kids. But when unions say they’re striking for raises, smaller class sizes, more support staff, etc., that means that they’re primarily fighting for more power. Smaller class sizes leads to the hiring of more teachers and support staff to accommodate the students—and that ultimately means more members in the unions. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of this but if y’all really want to make this about the kids, bring more parents to the table.

Hope: Imani’s Story

You’re a senior in high school. Star student and athlete, prom queen, definitely one of the cool kids because all of your peers adore you, and in a few months, you’ll be headed off to college. Literally living your best life with the world at your fingertips—until a cancer diagnosis alters that reality. That’s what happened to Imani Jones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwOH03F38Oo&fbclid=IwAR1rlSWE8TWFr-B6VpuX51nYb08Jfpn17r_Ka9QjO3OkRJ82DK4ldMO_DCw Imani learned of her cancer while trying to donate blood at her school’s blood drive. She was told that her iron levels were too low and upon further testing, she was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Now, a cancer diagnosis would probably make the average person feel like their world is crashing down on them. I mean, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I thought I was going to die. But just like my mother, Imani faced the dreadful illness with bravery and faith. So instead of heading off to college like the rest of her friends, Imani stayed home to bear through months of chemotherapy and radiation. In January of 2019, she celebrated her 19th birthday and first semester as a nursing student at Kent State University. She is also cancer-free. While Imani’s story may not be directly related to education, there are a number takeaways here. Our kids endure things that we couldn’t even imagine dealing with as teenagers— terrorism/school shootings, bullying, cultural and gender identity crises, ailments (physical,  social and emotional) and teachers and schools that they know don’t care about them. But, they persevere. And while they may be strong, it’s still so important that we support and love them through their challenges. The second and most important takeaway is, a dream deferred is not a dream denied. Imani could’ve given up the second she was diagnosed, but she didn’t. So let this be a lesson for anyone who feels like they can’t fight—if this young lady beat a life threatening disease, you can beat anything, too. On a personal note, I’d like to say how very proud I am of my little cousin, Imani. You are an inspiration to me and I’m sure to everyone who’s witnessed this blessing. Keep pushing, cuz!

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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