In a infuriating video released this week by parent watchdog group UTLA Uncensored, Los Angeles Board of Education members and leadership are seen completely ignoring a mom as she breaks down while recounting the suffering her children are experiencing due to the board’s refusal to stand up to the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and reopen schools.
In the video from the board’s March 9 meeting, board members (who draw six-figure, taxpayer-funded salaries) are seen eating, texting, checking emails, flipping through papers, and having side conversations with people off screen. The disinterest and lack of respect is especially cold considering the content of the mother’s comments.
“A year of lost learning is something you will never be able to give back to any of these children,” she said of the district that has refused to provide meaningful, in-person instruction to the more than half million students in its care since it shuttered classrooms March 16, 2020. That’s 396 days and counting.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency to do something here,” she pleaded. “You need to stand up to UTLA. The social and emotional damage you have done to these kids will haunt me forever. My family has seen first-hand the failures of virtual learning. I have watched two bright, energetic children who have loved school turn into sad, unmotivated children who are disengaged with learning and school altogether.”
As the mom – a child of immigrants who came to the United States to provide a better education for their children – is heard choking back tears, board members visibly could care less.
Member Kelly Gonez – who drew pay and benefits totaling $146,027 in 2019 according to Transparent California – repeatedly leans off her video to take bites of food, which she proceeds to eat on camera, mouth open. When not eating, she appears distracted by another screen. Monica Garcia (paid $143,427) spends much of her time looking down, doing something that looks a lot like texting.
Perhaps most offensive is the behavior of Megan Reilly, the district’s chief financial officer who can’t even feign interest, even though taxpayers forked over $181,805 toward her 2019 pay and benefits. She’s seen talking to other people off screen repeatedly, and toward the end of the woman’s comments, inhaling mouthfuls of noodles.
In fact, the only board member who appears interested in and bothered by the mother’s comments is the student board member, Kamarie Brown. The adults in the room should take note.
The board’s behavior comes amidst growing evidence supporting the mother’s anecdotes: school closures are unnecessary and are inflicting irreparable harm to children. Researchers at Harvard University have been following 224 children throughout the pandemic and found “two-thirds of them had clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the same number had behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and inattention,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Another new report, detailed by The Sacramento Bee, found similar impact. In Los Angeles Unified, two-thirds of students have fallen behind in math and reading, with the impact to children of color being even more severe. Unable to cope with the indefinite isolation and bleak outlook, more and more children are turning to suicide.
“I know first-hand education is a path forward and thousands of children just like mine are being robbed of opportunities every day that you keep schools closed,” the mother continued. “My community uses education as a stepping stone for a better life and all of you should be ashamed of robbing these children of these opportunities.”
Evidence showing schools can reopen safely – and are doing so across the country – is mounting, yet the UTLA and other unions in California continue to hold students hostage while demanding more from taxpayers before they’ll return to work.
“Many days, I feel as if we’re fighting a terrorist organization and my children and thousands of others are being held hostage by this organization,” the mother told the disinterested board. “I’m here to tell you I’ve been silenced by UTLA over and over and over again because my narrative goes against what they’re trying to push. Specifically, the UTLA president I find disgusting and offensive. This organization is working to divide us and silence those of us who don’t fit their narrative.”
Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines this week for “reopening,” but the return to school was hardly normal or sufficient in a state that spends over $20,000 to educate each student. LA students receive only a few hours of instruction a day, a couple days a week. As the Los Angeles Times explained, students are spending more time in child care than in class.
“To those of you who say that campuses are not closed, I say that is false,” she added. “We see the minutes of instruction and we see the quality of the Zoom instruction and it does not equal a good education. I’m doing the majority of work at home and my young elementary school kids have resources that I know many others do not. I’m sickened by the fact that you have allowed your doors to stay closed for so long and you have no sense of urgency. The disservice you have done to every single child under your care is beyond me.”