VENICE, CA – With brushes and paint in-hand, 61-year-old Monica Studer, a Title 1 Coordinator at Venice High School, is using the afternoon to start drawing some of the signs in preparation for a possible teacher strike.
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“It’s the same fight,” Studer said, “I thought we were done in 1989.”
Studer will retire in June, and can’t believe that her last year on the job she might go on strike once again, after 36 years as an educator.
“I got into teaching because I wanted to change the world, my dad was not happy… he said Monica, you are never going to make any money, and I told him I don’t care, I need to make a difference,” said Studer.
Six years after becoming an educator, she was walking the line in the strike of 1989.
“The first day, it was very exciting, it’s very unifying to be with your fellow educators fighting for a just cause,” Studer said.
For nine days in May, teachers withheld final grades, and instead lined the sidewalks of their schools. Some of their demands were strikingly similar to todays, asking for more administrative control, and higher wages.
Monica says those days without pay took a toll on her financially.
“I was really struggling because I wasn’t making a lot of money and I was really worried about being able to pay my rent, but my father said if you don’t strike you can’t come back to this house,” said Studer.
She, along with half of the student body, didn’t show up for class. Then District Superintendent Leonard Britten, said the district would go bankrupt if it met the union’s requests.
In the end teachers got a 24 percent pay raise over the course of three years.
Monica recalls it as a triumphant moment “I remember after we had settled, we walked into school as a faculty, arms raised, cheering.”
However, victory was short lived, two years later a state economic downturn, forced teachers to take a 10 percent pay cut.
Fast forward to today, Monica says a lot of the things they wanted back then, is what they want now: they want more control, she says they want more support, they want a voice.