Hollywood may not be the one striking — at least this time — but that doesn't mean the Los Angeles public school teachers strike, which starts Monday morning, won't affect a broad swath of entertainment professionals who send their kids to one of the 863 LAUSD campuses impacted by the walkout. The industry's creative class, many of whom are guild members themselves, are not only preparing for a disrupted school schedule, but also figuring out ways in which they can weigh in on the first such strike in three decades in the nation's second-largest school system.
"We are in total solidarity with the teachers union," says writer-producer Stacy Rukeyser, who was the showrunner on Lifetime and Hulu's UnREAL. Rukeyser and her husband, film producer Clark Peterson (Working Man) send their seven-year old to Roscomare Road Elementary School in Bel Air, which is part of LAUSD. They will not be sending their son to school during the strike. "We are not going to cross the picket line and we're aware that we are in an incredibly privileged position to be able to afford child care and deal with this," says Rukeyser. "We know there are people in different situations who can't do that. But I was on a picket line myself not long ago fighting for benefits that I'm getting now," she adds, in reference to the 2008 Writers Guild strike, "so it would be hypocritical of me not to stand with the teachers."
Writer and showrunner Dana Fox (Isn't It Romantic?), whose son goes to Carpenter Community Charter School in Studio City, also supports the teachers. But she was told by one that the best way to support them was to send her son to school, with the logic being that the longer the strike goes on, the more disgruntled the kids — and by extension their parents — will become, thus providing leverage to the striking teachers. "I'm pro-union and I want to do the most pro-union thing possible," says Fox, who adds that she plans to bring coffee and snacks to the picket line. "But in this day and age of all this social media, it is a little odd that we don't know what the marching orders are. The information hasn't been super clear."
The dispute between Los Angeles Unified School District and the United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers, has been brewing for months. It centers on a range of issues including higher wages, smaller classes and a demand that schools be staffed every day with supportive services like nurses and librarians. Whatever hope there was for a last-minute resolution was squelched Friday after the district's most recent offer was swiftly rejected by the union. L.A. schools Superintendent Austin Beutner argues that the district is on the brink of insolvency and that the teachers' demands are fiscally impossible.
During the strike, schools are scheduled to be open during normal hours and administrators have come up with a range of plans for children who do attend. Students will be assembled in auditoriums, libraries and computer rooms and will be overseen by a skeletal staff. At Roscomare, mothers are coordinating with one another to share in the supervision duties, and Rukeyser says she will likely be leaning even more on her nanny. Fox expects to call in some favors with her mother, who lives in the area, to aid in the parenting duties.
In a statement, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city will keep 32 recreation centers open for extended hours during the walkout while public libraries will offer additional staffing. Garcetti is also urging city departments to provide flexibility to affected employees with school-age children.
Actress Merrin Dungey, whose eight-year-old and 10-year-old also attend Roscomare, plans on taking her kids to march with their teachers on the picket line. "We are going to march on Monday rain or shine because I want them to understand what this means," she says. "I'm a union gal and its egregious what's happening."