by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of California’s largest teachers’ unions wants to open up its public school parking lots to the homeless, a priority the union is pushing as it barrels toward a strike that could shut down school just weeks after students returned to the classroom.
The Fresno Teachers Association laid out the policy in a contract proposal, which calls to “open high school parking lots to homeless families to park their car.” The union acknowledges the move would require “paid security” at a cost of at least $500,000, one of many expensive proposals union president Manuel Bonilla is pursuing in an attempt to address what he calls “societal things.” The Fresno Unified School District has thus far balked at those demands, and the union is expected to authorize a strike in the coming weeks as a result.
The union’s effort to turn its parking lots into homeless safe havens reflects a broader push from teachers’ unions across the country to use their bargaining power to actualize left-wing priorities. In nearby Oakland, for example, unionized teachers in May shut down the city’s public schools for two weeks after demanding reparations for black students in their contract proposal. Unionized teachers in Portland, Oregon, similarly threatened to strike if their district refused to provide subsidized housing for poor students.
While some public districts have caved to those demands—Oakland Unified School District agreed to provide housing assistance for homeless students in order to end the May strike—Fresno Unified School District has not budged. The district’s superintendent, Robert Nelson, last week questioned the homeless parking lot proposal, arguing that it isn’t the district’s “area of expertise.” Thousands of teachers are thus on track to strike following a union vote on October 18, not long after students returned to school in August.