21 Black Pastors Urge LA Teachers to Return to the Negotiating Table to End Strike for the Sake of African-American Children

Some of the 21 African-American pastors who signed the letter include, from left, Pastor Torrey Collins of St. Rest Friendship Church, Pastor Al Johnson of Divine Direction, Rev. K.W. Tulloss of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, Bishop Harrington of McFrazier New Beginnings Church and Pastor Nathaniel Haley of United Christians Missionary Baptist Church. (Photo: Rev. Danone Williams)

More than two dozen African-American pastors urged United Teachers Los Angeles to return to the negotiating table because “the fortunes of African-American children do not improve on a picket line.”

The letter, dated Tuesday, was addressed to UTLA’s President Alex Caputo-Pearl and released by L.A. Unified on Wednesday.

“While we support the exercise of your member’s first amendment rights and utilization of the protections afforded employees under California law, negotiators should be at the table crafting a solution to end the strike,” the letter states.

Late Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that both parties will resume negotiations at noon Thursday at City Hall. A UTLA official stated that new State Superintendent Tony Thurmond also had been in touch with both parties and offered support. The Los Angeles Times reported that Caputo-Pearl called for the strike to continue and for members to rally Friday in downtown Los Angeles.

The letter is signed by 21 pastors at churches, mainly located in South Los Angeles, including Grace Temple Missionary Church and United Christian Missionary Baptist Church, and Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Boyle Heights, whose pastor, K.W. Tulloss, this week was elected president of the Baptist Ministers Conference Los Angeles.

“If UTLA is not at the table, they need to hurry and get to the table for the sake of our kids, so we can figure this thing out,” Tulloss said Wednesday. “We just want folks to come together.”

Tulloss stressed that “we’re on the side of both,” adding his own children are not crossing the picket lines. “The reality is there are no sides. We’re on the side of the students and the teachers. We believe the teachers deserve what’s best and what’s right for them to receive. People are protesting a lot of different issues that we shouldn’t even be focusing on.”

Parents are suffering, he said, “because they don’t want to cross the picket line but need childcare. “It’s all coming at the expense of the kids. Kids are losing out on valuable education.”

The Rev. John Cager of Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church, who wrote the letter, said Wednesday, “We are not opposed to the strike. I think we all agree that the teachers’ goals are admirable. What we question is the strategy of not negotiating while you’re out on strike because you can’t solve any problems by not talking.”

He said before writing the letter, he spoke with teachers in the church “and all of them agree that the strike was necessary, and all of them agree that the union should go back to negotiations.”

Cager said his community’s main concern was who would take care of the students and the loss of learning.

“We want our schools to work better. Los Angeles should be a model school district, and we want the parties to do whatever is necessary to get both sides talking again and get a resolution,” said Cager, who grew up in Cleveland but whose now-adult children, and his wife, attended L.A. Unified schools. When one son needed special education services, Cager said it was so difficult to get an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for him that he had to go to Sacramento to fight for it.

In the letter, the pastors expressed their concern about how the strike would impact African-American students’ achievement.

“How are seniors transitioning out of school, 8th graders going to high school, 5th graders going to middle school, kindergarteners going to 1st grade, special needs students, and parents with children in state preschool going to make up time lost in a protracted work stoppage of their instructors?”

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Source: LA School Report