Anatomy of a teachers’ union bully
“It’s abundantly clear from the last year and a half how far she’s willing to go to push her agenda.”
That’s just one of many conclusions tucked inside the chilling exposé Los Angeles Magazine published this week on top-union boss Cecily Myart-Cruz. In a rare, sit-down interview granted by the ruthless leader of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), author Jason McGahan gathers insight on how a union that purportedly works to improve the lives of students and teachers has ruined so many over the past year and a half.
Myart-Cruz’s callous comments are an epic demonstration of gaslighting, where she denies so much of what those of us living in reality know to be true.
“There’s no such thing as learning loss,” she told McGahan, echoing previous statements she’s made, where she reasoned that since children weren’t learning before the pandemic, learning loss couldn’t have happened.
“It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables,” she continued, as she tried to downplay the ramifications of her union’s refusal to allow children in the classroom, saying instead they learned about protests and insurrections.
“It is not radical to ask for ethnic studies,” Myart-Cruz said of one of the many non-pandemic-related-demands UTLA issued as a condition of returning to work.
“It’s not radical to ask for police-free schools,” she continued, referring to the union’s stipulation that police be defunded before their members would resume meaningful instruction.
“Education is political,” she added, acknowledging that reopening schools is not the only goal of the United Teachers Los Angeles.
OK, that last one might be true, but it shouldn’t be.
While powerful teachers unions across the country routinely used children as bargaining chips, nowhere is that more evident than in California, where the UTLA took advantage of a global pandemic to push an extremist agenda at the expense of student achievement and health. When parents, citing mounting evidence proving full, in-person instruction could be done safely, Myart-Cruz and the UTLA dug in their heels and demanded more from the district, including free childcare, shortened work days, vaccine priority, pause in academic assessment testing, and more. She even bragged her union could extract more taxpayer giveaways than unions less willing to trade childrens’ wellbeing for a few extra bucks.
Presumably, the UTLA has only quietly agreed to reopen schools this year as a sort of in-kind political contribution to Gavin Newsom (on top of the $2.3 million teachers unions have gifted to try to protect him). Parents are left to wonder, “What will happen September 15?”
Fortunately, there’s a forthcoming solution in Los Angeles that stands to upend the unhealthy power dynamic which virtually ensures unions will always win while students lose. LAUSD is working to shift its school funding model to one that will empower principals to make decisions that respond to the local needs of students, while putting parents on equal (or perhaps higher) footing than unions.
Through the new, Student Centered Funding approach — which LAUSD plans to implement for the 2022-23 school year — the district would allocate money to schools, then the principal would then make staffing and programmatic spending decisions. Currently, the district makes these choices for all 1,000 schools in LAUSD, sending them a set number of staff, materials, and other in-kind resources.
The UTLA has launched a full-on assault on Student Centered Funding, including a “massive digital ad buy” to convince LAUSD to abandon its plan. Why? Simply put, Student Centered Funding would diffuse money decisions and make it more difficult for the likes of Cecily Myart-Cruz to bully a district as she has. Because decision-making would move from the district to the school level, UTLA would need to lobby 1,000 principals rather than one board of education. Conversely, parents would find it much easier to collaborate with their schools, because choices would be made by people who know their students’ unique situations.
The next few months — as parents advocate for a change that would truly give them a seat at the table and the UTLA flails to retain every bit of control it has — may be the most contentious yet. And Myart-Cruz is ready.
“If our union is stigmatized, I’m glad. I will wear that as a badge of honor,” she said.
But, so are parents. Supported by groups like CPC’s Parent Union, and more local grassroots networks like California Students United, parents are showing themselves to be a formidable voice for students and together, they can prevent another hijacking of kids’ futures.