Daniels said the LAUSD reopening plan is asking teachers to choose between “our children or our job”.
Unions across California say the need for childcare for educators was an issue before the pandemic, due to major policy loopholes that support women and working families.
The petition has more than 2,000 signatures and suggests that teachers with young children be given exemptions so that they can continue to work remotely for the time being, and that childcare be provided by autumn. While Los Angeles Unified offers some childcare options, the UTLA says the program cannot support children under the age of five or those enrolled in other districts.
UTLA, the second largest school district in the country, has not made childcare a condition for reopening. Los Angeles Unified plans to bring some of its youngest students back to the classroom on half-day shifts starting April 12.
However, the union urges the district to provide options for educators and encourage state lawmakers and Congress to “work proactively to provide better childcare support to all working families in California,” and advises point out that about 70 percent of women are women by profession.
“With millions of working families – including frontline workers in hospitals, grocery stores, food processors, plumbing, transportation and other professions – forced to leave their homes to seek childcare during the pandemic, this is clearer than ever that we as a society need to do more to provide affordable childcare for families with children who are too young for school, ”UTLA said in a statement.
A Los Angeles Unified spokesman said in an email on Tuesday the district had not received any updates to the childcare request.
With most of California’s 1,000+ school districts reopening or with a plan by this month, tensions continue to simmer as parents struggle for more personal tuition. Most California counties have passed hybrid plans that still include distance learning, and unions have been campaigning for increased safety protocols over the past year that include access to vaccines for educators and lower community case rates before resuming face-to-face teaching.
Teachers unions have been trying to avoid an “us against you” mentality with parents since the March pandemic, saying the narrative is unfair, especially for teachers who are also parents. Almost half of all public school teachers have children who live at home, according to data a report from Chalkbeat.
“The teachers did their best and many had the same experiences as their parents during the pandemic. They teach from home and also look after their children. They know exactly what the parents are going through, ”said Patrick Bernhardt, president of the San Jose Teachers Association.
But the emotional debate surrounding school reopening in California has made it difficult for some teachers and parents to come to an agreement.
California teachers, concerned for their safety, resisted pressure to return to classrooms when Covid-19 was fully in effect, arguing that they were not childcare workers. In February, Bay Area school council members resigned after a hot microphone caught officials complaining of parents’ complaints about distance learning. Lisa Brizendine, president of the Oakley Union Elementary School Council, said parents “want their babysitters back.”
While SJTA’s contract includes a policy allowing teachers to take their dependent children to childcare, this has long been a problem for California educators, who often fall below the income threshold for subsidized care but in large cities where the cost of living is skyrocketed, still struggling financially.
“We worked for our districts and the state to find a way to potentially provide seating for employees, but we couldn’t do that,” said Bernhardt. “It’s been a problem for a long time.”
Demand is particularly difficult as California grapples with a growing childcare crisis. Even before the pandemic, the state tried to make enough places available to young children who qualify for subsidized care.
The coronavirus made matters worse. Operating costs to keep up with security protocols rose while providers lost income because families were not enrolled. According to the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment77 percent of the programs in California suffered a loss of income from families in 2020.
Thousands of vendors across the state have had to close, saying they cannot reopen without government funding. President Joe Biden has pledged billions to help stabilize the childcare industry.
According to Blanca Gallegos, a union spokeswoman, the International Union Local 99, which represents classified school employees, including cafeteria staff and supervisors, plans to propose this week that Los Angeles Unified offer a childcare scholarship to all employees, including teachers.
Gallegos said calls for more state and federal funding for childcare will continue once California reopens.
“Childcare is critical and essential for people to get back to work and for the state to recover,” Gallegos said. “Childcare is necessary.”