The students return to class. (Image credit: AP/Emilio Morenatti)

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will close at least twelve special-needs day classes citywide by August, a CBS Channel 2 report revealed Thursday. The move comes even as LAUSD officials, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the California Teachers Association (CTA), and other organizations brag daily about how California schools are brimming with money.

This cynical attack on a vulnerable section of the student body also comes shortly after a settlement the district reached with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), after investigating LAUSD for violating the civil rights of students with disabilities and special needs. .

What sparked the investigation were claims by parents of more than 66,000 LAUSD students with disabilities who complained that their children had been neglected since the start of the pandemic, with little or no education or training. specialized assistance, despite federal law requiring districts to provide free and appropriate public services. Education (FAPE).

According to the agreement with OCR, LAUSD has agreed to “take necessary steps to ensure that students with disabilities receive educational services, including compensatory services, during and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In response to OCR’s investigation, LAUSD offers no explanation as to how the elimination of a large percentage of special needs classes in the city is somehow “compensatory”, particularly at the light of the legislative analyst’s recent estimate of a budget of $33 billion. surplus for California public schools TK-12 and California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget, which includes a per-student spending increase of $3,000.

As one parent said in the Channel 2 report, “unfortunately we are an afterthought, this community, the special needs community is an afterthought”.

The CAO investigation found that LAUSD violated the civil rights of students with disabilities by not providing them with FAPE during the pandemic. The Federal Civil Rights Act entitles all students to FAPE.

According to the CAO, the district’s violation included:

[blockquote]“Limited services provided to students with disabilities based on considerations other than the individual educational needs of students. Did not accurately or sufficiently track services provided to students with disabilities. Directed district service providers to include attempts to contact students and parents, including emails and phone calls, in service delivery, documenting them in student service records. Informed staff that the district was not responsible for providing compensatory education to students with disabilities who did not receive FAPE [Free Appropriate Public Education] during the COVID-19 school closure period because the district was not responsible for the closure. And, failed to develop and implement an adequate plan to address instances in which students with disabilities did not receive FAPE during remote learning.[/blockquote]

By closing twelve special needs day classes across the city, LAUSD is spitting on the deal reached with the CAO in April and leaving tens of thousands of special needs children out in the cold. Moreover, along with the entire political establishment, he falsely claims that the pandemic is all but over and that the population “must learn to live with the virus”, thus contributing to mass infections among teachers and students.

LAUSD has a well-documented history of disregard for students with special needs even before the COVID pandemic. In 2017, a report from the Office of the Independent Comptroller found that a physically disabled student in Los Angeles would not be able to enter through the main entrance of one in five schools in the district. One in four sites had vertical access issues and less than a third of schools had accessible washrooms on campus.

The previous year, Monica Garcia, then chair of the board, had come under heavy criticism from advocates for the rights of children with disabilities after she made a statement at a board meeting at the during which she lamented that a $700 million shortage for special education would take money from “our own children.” ”

The proliferation of charter schools in the city is also detrimental to children with disabilities. The conversion of public schools to private charter schools results in a lower percentage of children classified as having moderate to severe special educational needs.

The role of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has directly contributed to the current situation: as the current contract expires on June 30, their proposals to LAUSD in reference to special education are completely thoughtless and contradictory, such as the bizarre suggestion for “enforceable class size caps” and at the same time “support for classes that violate class size caps”, or the request for special day classes to have paraprofessionals who can be removed from classes to “help d ‘other tasks’.

The current contract, which resulted from UTLA selling out a six-day strike in 2019, demonstrates the union is united with the district and city government against teachers, parents and students. One of the biggest contract “wins” that UTLA promoted at the time of the deal was the appointment of a joint district class size task force that would meet quarterly to “review the monthly reports…” and “…any approved waivers related to class size averages and/or maximums. But such a task force did not even prevent the closure of twelve special needs day classes after a civil rights investigation in the district.

UTLA’s mothership, the California Teachers Association (CTA), fared no better. CTA Chief E. Toby Boyd released a statement on June 8, titled, “Optimism for our future”, in which he mentions nothing about the cuts in LAUSD. Instead, he paints a rosy picture of a public education system that sent students and teachers back to the classroom without any COVID-19 safety measures in place, despite running a nice budget surplus.

Organizations like CTA and UTLA are run by people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, which is for the Democrats. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), with a salary that exceeds half a million dollars a year, recently traveled to Poland and Ukraine to participate in the NATO war against Russia . But neither educators nor students, whether they have special needs or not, are interested in the war.

With their contracts due to expire in less than a month, teachers at Los Angeles public schools must take stock of the past few years. The last contract in 2019 was a complete betrayal. And now, when California is supposed to be flooded with extra money, not only is the UTLA offering a pay cut for educators over the next three years after taking into account skyrocketing inflation, but, as LAUSD plans to victimize the most vulnerable Section of Students and Educators, UTLA remains silent!

The WSWS calls on all teachers, students, parents and support staff to prepare now to take the lead in the coming fight from the hands of highly paid UTLA officials to engage in a fight with governments. cities and states to ensure a safe and quality education and workplace for all, without discrimination. This can only be done by forming rank-and-file committees under the direct democratic control of educators, students and parents themselves.