Fact Finder Says UTLA Should Accept LAUSD’s Salary and Class Size Offers To Prevent Strike

Fact Finder Says UTLA Should Accept LAUSD’s Salary and Class Size Offers To Prevent Strike

In a stunning rebuke to the United Teachers Los Angeles union, the state-appointed neutral fact finder appointed to help resolve LAUSD’s labor dispute has endorsed most of the major details of LAUSD’s recent offers on salary and class sizes as the path forward to prevent a strike.

The fact finder confirmed that LAUSD is facing a large deficit and suggested that UTLA accept LAUSD’s offer of a 6 percent raise, as well as LAUSD’s September offer to devote additional funds to lowering class sizes and hiring more nurses, counselors and librarians. LAUSD has offered $30 million to do that at the highest needs schools, but UTLA has instantly rejected all of LAUSD’s offers to date.

“The report says Los Angeles Unified’s offer of 6 percent is appropriate,” said LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who disclosed that UTLA has agreed to accept the salary offer. “The rest of the report confirms what Los Angeles Unified has already offered UTLA...We believe the path forward is clear, and the neutral fact finder has told us the path forward is clear. Six percent is fair.”

The neutral fact finding report also said UTLA’s class size “demands at this point are expensive." The report endorsed part of LAUSD’s October offer to work together with UTLA to develop a new class size plan.

Beutner agreed that class sizes are too big but pointed out that things are even worse at all but one of the 10 largest districts in the state. “Class size is an issue across California,” he said. “In comparison with the other 10 large districts across the state, we’re not so bad.”

After dissecting the neutral fact finder’s report, Beutner called on UTLA to cut a deal and settle the dispute now without the pain of a strike, which UTLA has threatened for mid-January unless all its demands are met. Beutner said he would be available “24-7” over the holidays to reach a settlement agreement to protect LAUSD’s kids. “We hope UTLA will join us at the bargaining table to resolve this.”  

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Parents Want School Rating System to Focus on Student Academic Growth

 Parents Want School Rating System to Focus on Student Academic Growth

Student academic growth tops the list of parent priorities for a school performance framework, according to a Speak UP survey of 200 parents across LAUSD, which was presented to the LAUSD Board on Tuesday.

Speak UP conducted focus groups and surveyed parents this fall from all types of schools representing the geographic, socioeconomic, racial, and needs-diversity of the district. The results demonstrated that regardless of the type of school, the geographic location, or the socio-economic makeup of the school, parents want the same things from a school report card.   

A full 73% of parents rated student academic growth as “very important,” more than any other measure of performance. Overall academic performance of students came in a close second, with 69 percent of parents rating it as very important, while principal effectiveness and teacher qualifications came in third and fourth.

“What this tells us is that parents clearly care most about outcomes for their kids,” Tom Creery, a former teacher who now works as a Speak UP parent engagement coordinator, told the Board at public comment. “They want their students to progress and succeed, and they want to know how well a school is delivering on those measures.”

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Protesters Shut Down LAUSD Board Meeting After Abysmal Financial Report

Protesters Shut Down LAUSD Board Meeting After Abysmal Financial Report

After hearing a harrowing financial report from LAUSD’s chief financial officer, UTLA-aligned protesters shut down the LAUSD Board meeting early Tuesday, preventing the Board from considering two resolutions to help increase revenue and state funding for education.

UTLA’s build-up to a teachers strike may prove counter-productive. The union’s strategy to claim the district is hiding or hoarding money might prevent the state from providing LAUSD with the very funding increase we all need.

After all, why would the state provide more funding if LAUSD were flush with cash, as UTLA claims?

Parents, who are tired of being caught in the middle of all this noisy labor unrest, are looking forward to the report from the neutral fact finder, which will be given to LAUSD and UTLA by this Friday. The district then has two weeks to make the report public.  

LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Scott Price outlined the details of LAUSD’s fiscal stabilization plan at Tuesday’s meeting, which the county required in order to address the district’s “qualified” budget rating. Without cuts or more revenue, LAUSD will dip below its required 1 percent reserve within a couple years, and it will fall $500 million in the hole by the 2022-23 school year.

In order to satisfy county overseers, who have threatened to rescind Board authority if LAUSD doesn’t shape up, 283 jobs in 175 different categories are expected to be cut, for a total of $35.5 million a year in savings. The least senior teachers are likely to be the ones who lose their jobs first. That’s because many central office administrators have right to return to the classroom and bump teachers out of their jobs when their administrative positions are eliminated.

Among the jobs the division heads proposed would be cut as part of the 15 percent reduction are: LAUSD’s chief of police, the executive director of special education, five parent educator coaches and the senior executive direct or the arts education program.  

Parents are all for cutting pricey bureaucrats, but the chief of police? That sounds like a fairly important position. Should parents start worrying that things are so bad financially that student safety will be compromised?

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Unions Finally Come To The Table With Parents To Explore Healthcare Cost Savings

Unions Finally Come To The Table With Parents To Explore Healthcare Cost Savings

Nine months after agreeing to come to the table, LAUSD’s employee unions are finally sitting down with parents for the first time Friday to explore ways to rein in the soaring cost of retiree healthcare, which is eating up a larger portion of education funding every year.

There’s now a $15 billion price tag for the promises LAUSD made to current and future retirees for their free lifetime healthcare, and the Independent Analysis Unit has warned that LAUSD cannot afford to “pay as you go” for these promises and still have enough money left to educate kids. Unless something changes, half of LAUSD’s education funding will go toward retiree pension and healthcare costs before this year’s kindergarten class finishes high school. That means LAUSD is in the process of morphing into more of a retirement agency than an institution dedicated to educating kids.  

The employee unions prioritized the preservation of free retiree healthcare benefits over every other need by negotiating that portion of the contract first. In February, they pressured LAUSD to put $3.3 billion toward employee healthcare alone – leaving less money now for lower class sizes, teacher salaries, and more counselors, nurses and librarians. 

Current working teachers are already feeling the slow-boil pain of the problem and demanding lower class sizes under threat of a strike, but it’s too late now for LAUSD to meet those demands. The money has already been committed to cover healthcare costs for the next two years, so LAUSD can no longer afford class size decreases and demands for more counselors without tipping into insolvency.

The good news is, teachers can look to their own union to help solve the problem. LAUSD is in the unusual position of having no control over its employee health benefit plans. While the amount LAUSD pays for healthcare is negotiated, the unions themselves control the details of plans through an entity called the Health Benefits Committee. Each employee union has one voting seat at the table, and the district has one seat.

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LAUSD Must Tell Parents About Lead in Water

LAUSD Must Tell Parents About Lead in Water

Key Developments:

·   Speak UP called for district transparency about lead in water and other health and safety issues.

·   The LAUSD Board passed a resolution to waive the fee it charges parent volunteers for fingerprinting. 

·   The LAUSD Board passed a resolution from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to explore using LAUSD properties to house homeless students and their families.

·   Local District West elementary schools show the worst math growth in LA schools, and huge racial gaps in growth persist, according to data presented by CORE Data Collaborative.

·   UTLA rejected well-respected candidates to chair fact-finding panel and continues to deny facts of financial crisis.

Summary:

Speak UP Director of Operations Daphne Radfar criticized LAUSD’s failure to inform parents when water at their kids’ schools have high lead levels and called on the district to be more transparent with parents about health and safety issues.

Nearly a quarter of Los Angeles Unified’s water outlets tested above five parts per billion, according to a recent report in EdSource, and some schools tested much higher, including Miramonte Elementary, Audobon Middle School, and Los Angeles High, where Michelle King’s Girls Academic Leadership Academy is located.

Lead can permanently damage developing brains and lead to both learning and behavior issues in kids. It may even contribute to low student achievement at LAUSD schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and is urging legal levels be lowered to one part per billion. 

“This is a really serious health issue, and yet LAUSD has done nothing to proactively inform parents at the schools where the water can permanently damage kids’ brains,” Radfar told the Board at public comment. “This is simply unacceptable.” 

It may also be illegal. While LAUSD claims that it’s complying with the law because there’s an obscure website where parents can look up the lead levels, the website is not easy for parents to find, navigate or interpret. It’s “absurd” to claim that this qualifies as informing parents, said Radfar, who pointed out that schools sends flyers home in backpacks or make Robocalls when they truly want to communicate important information.

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Transgender Activist Among Many Parents Vying For District 5 Board Seat

Transgender Activist Among Many Parents Vying For District 5 Board Seat

While there are currently no parents of school-age children serving on the LAUSD Board, at least seven of the 17 candidates who have filed to run in the District 5 special election on March 5 are parents, and most have included that fact in their ballot designations. One parent, Justine Gonzalez, would be the first transgender person elected to office in Los Angeles if she were to win.  

The BD5 seat has been empty since the resignation of Board Member Ref Rodriguez earlier this year. Former BD5 Board Member Bennett Kayser, whom Rodriguez defeated in the last race for the seat, has decided to run again, as has Jackie Goldberg, another former Board member and state lawmaker who failed in her attempt to get appointed to the seat after parents objected to a closed process that excluded their input.

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LAUSD Wants Parents To Send Kids To School During A Strike, But Many Questions Remain Unanswered

LAUSD Wants Parents To Send Kids To School During A Strike, But Many Questions Remain Unanswered

LAUSD expects parents to send their kids to school during a strike, but parents are still uncertain exactly what will happen once they get there. Will they have to parade their young children through picket lines of shouting teachers? How many adults will be supervising their kids, and what will they be doing at school all day? These are just a few of the questions district parents are asking two months before a strike may take place.

The district recently published a Family Resource Guide to help families better understand what’s happening with labor negotiations and what plans the district has in place for kids during a strike. For instance, schools will remain open, and kids will be expected to attend school as usual. Those who receive breakfast in the classroom and free and reduced lunch will continue to be fed, and “instruction will be provided by qualified L.A. Unified staff, which includes certificated and classified staff, qualified substitute employees, or reassigned administrators,” the guide says.

Beyond those basics, however, district officials are providing few details on how many employees will cross the picket line, what the ratio of adults to students will be at each school and what kind of learning will take place and where. 

Elmer G. Roldan, director of civic engagement for the superintendent’s office, recently held a conference call with representatives from about three dozen afterschool providers and parent and community groups to help get the word out to parents about the possibility of an impending strike.

“Our goal,” Roldan told the groups on the call, “is to make sure that students have a safe place to go to, they are fed, and that we are able to provide some of the basic academic programs.”

The Division of Instruction has created strike plans that have been shared with principals, but they are “only as good as the number of bodies that we have in the schools to help carry them out,” Roldan said. While LAUSD is making a list of employees with teaching credentials it can deploy to school sites, Roldan acknowledged that there’s still uncertainty over how many people will be willing to cross the picket lines to help. 

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WISH Pushes Admissions Preference For Kids With Special Needs, As LAUSD Parents Decry Failed Inclusion Attempts

 WISH Pushes Admissions Preference For Kids With Special Needs, As LAUSD Parents Decry Failed Inclusion Attempts

WISH Academy high school, which was approved two and a half years ago over the objections of then-LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer, just became the first charter school in Los Angeles to push for a lottery admissions preference for kids with moderate to severe special needs.

WISH’s elementary, middle and high schools, located in Westchester and known for their fully inclusive model serving kids of all abilities together in the same classrooms, were renewed for five years Tuesday. The charter petitions added a preference at all grade levels for kids with moderate to severe needs, but the state will have to agree to a waiver before the preference can be included in the schools’ lottery applications.

Allison Buchner, who has two children at WISH elementary, one of whom has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, pushed the school to add the preference to the charter petitions.

“I brought it up with WISH when my child in second grade asked where the other kids in chairs were and why weren’t there more kids in chairs at WISH,” she said. “Inclusion doesn’t just mean that kids with special needs go to school with kids with typical needs. Everyone wants to look around and see others who share the same challenges they do. There’s a lot of comfort in that. I think this is a really positive step, and I’m really excited about it.”

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When It Comes to School Absences, ‘Keep It Under Seven,’ LAUSD Says

When It Comes to School Absences, ‘Keep It Under Seven,’ LAUSD Says

If you think it’s no big deal to keep your kindergartner home from school, think again. Missing school early on can have a lifelong impact on your kids.

Students who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are far less likely to read at grade level by third grade. And those who don’t read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.

If your child misses just one day of school, it actually takes three days to make up for the lost instructional time. These sobering facts were presented alongside some grim attendance statistics at LAUSD’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

With 70,000 LA Unified students missing more than 15 days of school last year, “that’s over 1 million days of instruction lost,” said Diane Pappas, senior advisor to the superintendent, who presented the data. “That is really significant.”

The situation is starting to improve this fall, as LAUSD’s new Superintendent Austin Beutner makes attendance a top district priority, but it’s not happening fast enough. So far, chronic absenteeism has decreased 1.5 percent this September compared to last year, while excellent attendance has increased by 2.2 percent.

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As Mediation Fails, UTLA Marches One Step Closer to Strike

As Mediation Fails, UTLA Marches One Step Closer to Strike

United Teachers Los Angeles moved one step closer to a strike Friday, as mediation talks with Los Angeles Unified ended in failure, and LAUSD filed a new unfair labor practice charge against UTLA for refusing to bargain in good faith.

“By UTLA’s own admission, the only reason UTLA participated in mediation was to ensure that it could move quickly to a strike,” LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist said Friday. “After just one mediation session, UTLA was seeking to have the mediation process terminated and was openly inciting conflict.”

The two sides now move on to what’s called a fact-finding process. The Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), the state agency that oversees the labor negotiation process, will form a three-member panel chaired by a neutral party that will have a hearing and issue a public report on the facts and recommendations for a settlement.

The process can take from a few weeks to a few months, according to LAUSD. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told teachers Friday that he expected the report in late November or early December. At that point the two sides can come back to the table to accept the recommended settlement, or the district can impose its final offer, and UTLA could go on strike.

With the process now unfolding in the middle of the holiday season, there’s speculation that a strike could now take place in January.

Caputo-Pearl has been making noises about a strike ever since he took over as UTLA president several years ago. So it’s no surprise that a settlement to avert a strike appears to be nowhere in sight. Both sides continued their heated rhetoric Friday, with LAUSD arguing that UTLA had been deceptive and intransigent, and UTLA attacking LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and saying he had attempted to “buy us off with a modest salary increase.”  

LAUSD has offered teachers the same 6 percent raises that other employee unions accepted in their recent contract talks. It also offered additional pay bumps for teachers who take courses in areas aligned with student needs, as well as smaller class sizes in some of the highest-needs schools. UTLA wants larger salary increases and class size decreases at all schools. Union demands would cost an additional $880 million per year, far more than LAUSD has in its budget.

“UTLA has distorted and mischaracterized the facts regarding the offer Los Angeles Unified has made to UTLA, the financial status of Los Angeles Unified, and the negotiation process – recasting the evidence to suggest Los Angeles Unified has been unyielding, when in fact, it is UTLA that has refused all efforts to work out a solution,” Holmquist said.

Holmquist reiterated that UTLA’s final demands would “bankrupt Los Angeles Unified and lead to the unprecedented layoffs of about 12,000 employees, including teachers.” 

In its unfair labor charge filed Friday with PERB, LAUSD said that UTLA had “trounced through the impasse procedure in bad faith, in order to have cover to initiate a strike. UTLA has made no genuine effort to consider alternative positions or to compromise its claims, and has interrupted and refused to attend proposed mediation sessions in order to shortcut the process and achieve its bad faith objectives.”

While some had hoped that the fact that there were multiple mediation sessions was a sign that progress had been made, LAUSD put that notion to rest on Friday. The district claimed in its charge that UTLA had “resisted returning for a second date of mediation, insisting that their position of no movement at all on any issue was a legitimate position.”

Then, after mediators insisted that UTLA attend a second session, which was held at UTLA headquarters at their request, the union “interrupted the second session for several hours in order to hold a press conference to critique various lunch meetings the Superintendent had attended.”

Meanwhile, Caputo-Pearl on Friday urged UTLA members to sign strike commitment forms, raising questions about the number of teachers who have actually pledged to strike themselves, rather than merely authorize UTLA leaders to call a strike. “We need to know that every single one of us will be on the line if we have to strike,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Caputo-Pearl said that UTLA would also focus on trying to build support for a strike among parents, who have expressed serious concerns about teachers walking out on their kids. A strike would deprive students of an education and force many parents to miss work and scramble for childcare or lose wages in order to keep their kids safe. 

A large number of LAUSD kids rely on schools to provide two free meals a day. A strike would have an outsized impact on these vulnerable kids, many of whom are already struggling academically and way behind grade level and their more affluent peers.

“On behalf of all of our children and families, I am disappointed mediation has ended,” said Board President Monica Garcia (BD2). “I acknowledge the hard work of our employees and the need to continue to find a solution. We all have a responsibility to resolve issues without risking further harm and stress to our students and families.”

Caputo-Pearl in UTLA’s weekly address also reiterated its false claim that “the money is there” to meet UTLA’s demands for class size decreases, larger teacher raises and more hiring of permanent employees. Those claims fly in the face of warnings from an Independent Financial Review Panel, as well as county and state overseers that have threatened to rescind Board authority if LAUSD gives in to UTLA’s demands.

In an FAQ sheet released Friday, LAUSD addressed UTLA’s repeated claims that LAUSD has $1.8 billion in reserves sitting in the bank that could go toward UTLA’s demands. “About $500 million of that is already committed for federal and state required programs such as resources used to support students in poverty with tutoring and intervention programs.”  

The rest of the $1.3 billion will be spent to cover LAUSD’s deficit. The district currently spends about $500 million more per year than it receives in revenue. LAUSD is required by law to show a balanced budget not only this year but for the subsequent two years, while maintaining a 1 percent reserve. Nearly all of what’s in the bank now will be used just to keep the district in the black over the next two years.

“If L.A. Unified exhausts its savings, the school district will be placed into state receivership,” LAUSD said in its FAQ. That means the state would start making unilateral budget cuts that could include slashing teacher salaries and benefits, laying off employees and increasing class sizes. “L.A. Unified has proposed to UTLA that the parties bring in an independent auditor to examine the financial records of L.A. Unified in order to make certain both parties are working from the same set of facts. UTLA has refused this offer.”

In addition to financial demands, UTLA is also demanding that LAUSD make it harder for charter schools to find classroom space under Prop 39, a state law guaranteeing public nonprofit charter school students equal access to facilities. UTLA wants to create panels of UTLA members and district parents to help decide how school space will be used, while excluding charter parents entirely from the process – essentially codifying contractual discrimination against charter school families.  

UTLA is also making demands that would curb the number of magnet school options for families.

Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) decried the failure of mediation and urged everyone to come together to lobby for more state funding, which would be necessary to meet UTLA’s demands.

“I’m disappointed, because in my over three dozen town halls with parents and teachers over the last few weeks, I’m convinced there’s more that unites all of us than divides us—that there’s more common ground than we’re seeing at the negotiating table,” Melvoin said. “I’m hopeful that fact-finding will elucidate our financial situation so we can settle this contract, avoid a strike that would be bad for kids and families, and collectively go to Sacramento to demand fair funding for our schools, teachers, and kids.”

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Huge Achievement Gaps Persist Amid Tiny Test Score Gains

 Huge Achievement Gaps Persist Amid Tiny Test Score Gains

Fewer than one third of Los Angeles Unified students met state standards in math and only 42% in English, trailing statewide averages on standardized test results released Tuesday. While growth in LA Unified student scores slightly outpaced minuscule statewide growth, large racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps remain a blight on both the state and the district. 

Economically disadvantaged African American students in Los Angeles, in particular, don't appear to be getting nearly enough support. Only 16% tested proficient in math, flat from the previous year. Economically disadvantaged students of every ethnicity also trailed their wealthier counterparts. 

“The student performance data serves as evidence that we as a District must look for better ways to meet the needs of our student populations,” said Board President Mónica García (BD 2). “Approximately 82 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch, and over 80 percent are Latino or African American students. The identified gaps in proficiency levels are unacceptable. We have taken a step in the right direction with the Equity is Justice 2.0 movement, and we will keep fighting to close the existing achievement gaps.”

Parents from Speak UP and Parent Revolution have been calling on LAUSD to create a comprehensive plan to increase student achievement in LAUSD’s persistently under-performing schools. While LAUSD will no longer force the lowest 25 percent of schools to receive must-place teachers that principals don’t want to hire, most LAUSD schools above that 25 percent threshold also serve kids who need more help.

“We need to do more to lift the achievement of our city and state’s most vulnerable children,” said Speak UP executive Director Katie Braude. “We are still failing the vast majority of kids of color in LAUSD, and the pace of change is not quick enough. We simply have to do better.”

A full 68 percent of LAUSD students are failing to meet state math standards, compared to 61 percent failing statewide. Fifty eight percent of LAUSD students are not meeting English standards, compared to 50 percent statewide. LAUSD’s test score gains did outpace statewide gains, which were just a fraction over 1 percent in English and math. The percentage of LAUSD students meeting standards grew almost 3% percent in English and 2% in math compared to last year.

However, the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps remain a persistent problem across the entire state. For example, 54% of White students in California tested proficient or better in math, compared to 27% of Latino students and 20% of Black students. In English, 65% of White students tested proficient or better compared to 39% of Latino students and 32% of Black students.

While it was not all bad news, the minor improvements in state and LAUSD test scores came mostly from 3rd and 4th graders, while 11th graders fared worse across the board, signaling that college readiness may remain elusive for many California high school graduates. In LAUSD, 3rd graders made the greatest gains in English, with the number of proficient or better scores climbing by nearly 6%.

However, 11th grade scores plummeted, reversing what had been slow progress and falling below scores from 2015, the first year the Smarter Balanced tests were scored. The number of LAUSD juniors meeting English standards fell 3.5 percent compared to last year.

These results do not include independent charter schools, though scores for individual Los Angeles charter schools, which are public and not-for-profit, are available on the state’s website (https://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2018/default).

One comparison that may be of particular interest to LAUSD parents is the performance differential between students at LAUSD magnet schools and all other LAUSD schools, especially since the application window for the 2018-2019 school year recently opened for magnet schools. (The window runs through Nov. 9.)  A full 61% of magnet school students met or exceeded state standards in English, compared to only 38% of their non-magnet peers. And 49% of magnet students met or exceeded state standards in math compared to 28% of students in other LAUSD schools.

Magnets have traditionally served fewer economically disadvantaged students and English learners than either charters or traditional district schools, and some gifted magnets require kids to test in so a head-to-head comparison is not entirely fair. The bottom line, though: magnets are doing significantly better, and that’s one reason the district opened 36 new magnets this school year. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner would like to see continued growth in magnets, but United Teachers Los Angeles in its ongoing contract talks is demanding measures that would limit the growth of magnets.  

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Parents of Color Are Speaking Up and Telling The Next Governor To Focus on Education

Parents of Color Are Speaking Up and Telling The Next Governor To Focus on Education

Parents of color in California want the next governor to place a higher priority on improving K-12 public schools than expanding access to health care or addressing the lack of affordable housing, according to a new poll conducted by Goodwin Simon for  The Education TrustWest and UnidosUS.

About nine out of 10 Latino, Black, and Asian Pacific Islander parents say improving K-12 education should be a high priority for the next governor, with more than half saying it should be an extremely high priority. Black parents, whose kids face the largest achievement gap, placed the highest priority on improving public education, with roughly three out of four naming it an extremely high priority.

“Parents of color really want educational justice in California, and they expect the next governor to prioritize that,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, co-interim executive director of Education Trust—West, which released results from polling 600 parents of color, evenly split between Black, Asian and Latino.   

“A lot of the research on parents and students doesn’t reflect the demographics of our state,” said Smith Arrillaga. “We wanted to make sure this poll reflected the parents of students that are in California’s K-12 schools, and right now, seven out of 10 students in our K-12 schools are Black, Latino or Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”

The poll also found that parents of color are speaking up in their schools but don’t always feel heard. Nine out of 10 Black and Latino parents, and eight out of 10 Asian Pacific Islander parents say they are likely to offer feedback to their child’s school. And nine out of 10 Black and Latino parents, and seven out of 10 Asian Pacific Islander parents feel comfortable pushing their child’s school to make changes.

However, just over half of Black and Latino parents, and just one out of three Asian Pacific Islander parents think it’s very possible for parents to make a difference in improving school performance.

“We found parents felt like they could offer feedback, but they just weren’t often sure how to turn that feedback into action or who they should be talking to [in order] to activate the feedback that they did give,” said Smith Arrillaga.  “Parents are ready to be engaged, and there are so many parents already engaging, but there’s a lot of variance in how heard those parents feel their voices are.”

Speak UP’s mission is to empower parents to make their voices heard so they can collectively speak up to help improve public education. Half of Latino parents, and just under half of Black and Asian Pacific Islander parents polled say K-12 schools are headed in the right direction.

That mirrors the slight progress in state standardized test scores released Tuesday. However, racial achievement gaps remain wide, and progress remains slow.

 “Those assessments show that we’re a long way off from preparing all of our students to be college and career ready,” said Smith Arrillaga. “The 11th grade test scores actually showed a decline. We know there’s a lot more work to do. But we also know there are schools across the state that are closing gaps with low-income students and students of color.”

The percentage of Black students meeting state math standards increased .72%, while the percentage of Latino students went up 1.45% from the prior year. In English Language Arts, the percentage of Black students meeting standards increased 1 percent and Latino students 1.88 percent from the prior year.

 “Overall, there is a slight change in the scores, and the changes are more significant in the earlier grades, like 3rd grade, than in the later grades, but those increases are still quite slow,” said Smith Arrillaga. “At this current pace of change, we won’t see all Latino students proficient until 2051 in English Language Arts.”

 

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LAUSD Offers Teacher Raises, Class Size Reductions But Avoids Tough Teacher Quality Issues

LAUSD Offers Teacher Raises, Class Size Reductions But Avoids Tough Teacher Quality Issues

As LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles enter contract mediation Thursday, the district plans to make a final offer to give teachers 6 percent raises and reduce class sizes by four students at 75 elementary schools and 15 middle schools serving high-need kids.

The final offer would also address one issue that a recent Speak UP working group of parents and teachers called for: changing the types of classes that teachers can take to move up the pay scale to better address student learning needs. As it stands now, teachers can get pay raises for taking classes that have nothing to do with what they are teaching. LAUSD’s offer would align those classes to district priorities such as STEAM, bilingual education and early literacy.  

But despite calls from parents to focus on improving the quality of teaching that kids receive, the final offer does not attempt to change any of the policies surrounding how often teachers are evaluated or policies that protect ineffective teachers, such as forcing schools to hire “must-place” teachers they don’t want.

“Unfortunately, this contract offer does not do enough to ensure that every student has a quality teacher in front of the classroom,” said Speak UP Executive Director Katie Braude. “It would lock us into the status quo for another two years, leaving intact the parts of the contract that value seniority over teacher performance. Teachers and parents agree that regular and meaningful evaluations improve teacher quality and effectiveness. Teachers we work with feel unsupported when they don’t get that regular feedback. Teachers should not go five years without being evaluated, and no school should be forced to hire a teacher against their will. No one benefits from that situation.” 

Parents showed up at the LAUSD Board meeting in force Tuesday, calling on the LAUSD Board to demand a teacher contract that addresses the issue of teacher quality, but also to avoid a strike. Board District 2 parent Vincenta Martinez said a strike “will be a crisis. Already in Los Angeles, too many children in our communities don’t get the education they deserve. This strike will only make things worse.”

While LAUSD has asked to add a fourth tier to evaluations recognizing highly effective teachers, parents pushed the Board to make bigger changes that would improve teaching quality. “Every child deserves great teachers, no matter the community they live in, but to make that happen, we have to have a contract that puts that goal as its core principle,” said Vickey Vaughn, a parent in Board District 1. “We want great teachers who get recognized for their work and who will go into the schools that need them the most. We want to make sure that ineffective teachers don’t stay in classrooms with kids. We want teachers to be evaluated in a real way, and if they need support, to get support.”

Speak UP Director Of Operations Daphne Radfar presented to the Board preliminary findings from its parent-teacher working group that collaborated on a vision for a contract that values teachers and puts kids first.  

“Teachers and parents agreed that seniority alone should not be the single most important factor that determines compensation scales, displacements and layoffs, school and classroom assignments, or leadership roles,” Radfar said. “The parents and teachers in our group believe that LAUSD teachers should be evaluated and given constructive and meaningful feedback at least once a year…We agree that teacher compensation should be tied to performance, and that excellent teachers should be rewarded for their excellence.”

Judging from the LAUSD final offer, however, the district appears to be shying away from pushing the envelope on big issues related to teacher quality. The class size reduction would lead to the hiring of additional teachers in some of the highest-need schools.

The district offer is for 6 percent raises (3 percent retroactive to last school year and 3 percent this year). The contract would be in effect until 2020. The LAUSD offer would also align the eligibility requirements for free lifetime health benefits with the other employee unions, making employees eligible when their age and years of service add up to 87 rather than the current 85.

One additional provision that LAUSD is putting on the table in its final offer: for LAUSD and UTLA to work together to provide a summary of what’s in the contract in plain enough language for parents and community members to understand.  It’s an attempt to provide the public with an agreed-upon set of facts, which have been hard to come by during the negotiations, and to allow parents to have greater access to the negotiation process.

Hours after LAUSD released details of its offer, UTLA rejected it outright, calling it “insulting,” which means a painful strike could be weeks away.

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Vladovic Says LAUSD Should Apologize To Parents For Destroying Kids’ Lives By Keeping Ineffective Teachers

Vladovic Says LAUSD Should Apologize To Parents For Destroying Kids’ Lives By Keeping Ineffective Teachers

Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) said LAUSD should apologize to parents for ruining their kids’ lives because teachers at the lowest-performing schools are so rarely evaluated, and it takes at least three years to dismiss a teacher who consistently receives poor performance reviews.

“Where’s the apology letter to parents? It takes three years, and we’ve destroyed the lives of 150 kids,” Vladovic said at the Board meeting Tuesday. “I just want to see the apology letter to the parents that says ‘we’re sorry, you’re child’s life has been messed up.’ Because one year of a bad teacher can hurt…Where’s the apology letter for our evaluation system that allows our children to be suffering, and they do. Three years to fire somebody!”

Under terms of the United Teachers Los Angeles contract, a teacher can go five full years without any performance evaluation. About 400 LAUSD teachers have not been evaluated in the last five years, Deputy Superintendent Vivian Ekchian told the Board Tuesday.

“We recognize that there’s no other place that we’re aware of, in private industry in particular, where someone’s evaluation process is every five years,” Ekchian said.

Vladovic was also incensed that there’s no requirement that it be put in writing when and why a principal and teacher agree that a teacher does not need to be evaluated. If a new principal arrives and tries to evaluate a teacher, the teacher can cry foul and claim there was some prior “handshake” deal excusing the teacher from evaluation for five years, Vladovic said. “We don’t have any evidence,” he said. “We don’t really know who’s been excused.”

Ekchian clarified that principals are supposed to make that decision annually so a new principal absolutely has the right to evaluate every teacher on staff once in any given year. However, that’s not happening, in part because the process is so arduous and time consuming, she said.

Vladovic, who worked as a principal and evaluated every teacher on his own staff when he was new to a school, said that LAUSD should identify which principals are evaluating their teachers infrequently.

“If the principal is saying five years to every individual on their staff, and their school is one of the lowest performing schools in the district, somebody’s wrong,” Vladovic said. “I want it in writing who’s being evaluated annually, who’s being evaluated every other year because a principal waived them, and then I want to start looking at the school. If a principal waived 20 percent of their staff and they’re the lowest performing school in the district, what’s going on? Nobody is checking that.” 

Last year, only one third of LAUSD teachers were formally evaluated. “I want to know where the other 20,000 of employees are and why they aren’t being evaluated,” Vladovic said.  

Board members also questioned the accuracy of the evaluations. According to a recent analysis by the advocacy organization Parent Revolution, nearly all the teachers who were evaluated at low-performing schools — 96% — were deemed to meet or exceed performance standards, even though just 27% of their students met or exceeded the state’s standards in English and only 20% in math.

That’s partly because the union contract limits how a teacher can be evaluated. Out of 61 elements that make up LAUSD’s teacher evaluation framework, the union contract specifies that LAUSD can select only three criteria. Parent feedback and student growth are not among the factors considered. Parents also have no access to teacher evaluations and no way of learning how often teachers at their school are evaluated.

When teachers do receive a poor performance evaluation, “our job is to help the teacher,” said Board Member George McKenna (BD1). They receive about 80 hours of support and coaching to help them get better. “We must improve them before we remove them. That should be our mantra.”

But when a tenured teacher does not improve, the dismissal process is so lengthy and difficult that principals often don’t bother to go through all the steps required for a teacher to be removed. Teachers typically file union grievances against their principal, which takes more time and creates even more paperwork. 

Vladovic questioned whether the current evaluation system was actually making things better.

“Does it result in better teaching?” Vladovic asked. “No, it hasn’t made a difference. The perennial schools are still failing. It hasn’t produced the results we want. It has not produced improved student achievement. It hasn’t made us more accountable. And it’s killed off our principals who are now gun shy from doing it.”

The bottom line, Vladovic said: “I believe we’re failing our community and our children.” 

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‘Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting together to increase funding for our students,’ LAUSD superintendent says

‘Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting together to increase funding for our students,’ LAUSD superintendent says

Quality teaching, more equitable funding, a focus on the most disadvantaged students and making it easier for parents to volunteer. These were among the top policy priorities that LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner outlined during a speech in the library of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Thursday.

“Low-income students, students of color, English Learners, LGBTQ youth, children who lack healthcare, students exposed to violence in their neighborhoods or homes, and students with special needs are being left behind at an alarming rate,” Beutner said. “These students are not provided with the same opportunities as their peers in different neighborhoods and communities where families earn more money.”

Beutner called for a change to the way states fund schools based on student attendance rather than enrollment, saying it hurts the kids who need the most help. “In Watts, the kindergarten population is chronically absent almost one quarter of the time, which means that those schools are getting less funding than a school might in Beverly Hills where chronic absenteeism is less than ten percent. We need to fix a funding system that is not equitable and penalizes the very students most in need.”

Two weeks after United Teachers Los Angeles members authorized a strike, Beutner also encouraged teachers, parents and the district to come together to push for more state funding. “We want smaller class sizes, better pay for teachers, and additional counselors, librarians and support staff in every school – but we will need more money to pay for it. We can only spend what we have,” he said. “Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting together to increase funding for our students. $16,000 per pupil is simply not enough.”

Without that collaboration, his prognosis for the district was bleak. “We’re facing a fiscal cliff. It’s not theoretical and it’s not debatable. If nothing changes, we are headed for insolvency in the next two to three years,” he said. “If that happens, a fiscal advisor will be appointed by the state and we’ll no longer have local control over our schools. Budgets will be slashed, class sizes will rise, and decisions won’t be made in the best interest of our students and families. Los Angeles Unified is not too big to fail, and no one is coming to save us if we do.”

Despite that ominous tone when discussing the finances, Beutner’s overall message was what he called a “true progressive vision” for education.  He reached out directly to parents, touching on much of the Speak UP platform, including quality teaching, equity, transparency, accountability, collaboration and responsiveness to parent concerns.

He tackled the number one priority of Speak UP members surveyed: making sure we have effective teachers in every classroom, saying we need more support, professional development and pay for hard-working teachers. LAUSD wants to create a new evaluation category recognizing highly effective teachers so they can become models to help their fellow teachers improve.

“Our best teachers are literally changing lives. We need to make sure they feel appreciated, are rewarded, and are committed to a long career at Los Angeles Unified,” he said. “They need more support. We need to pay our teachers more and provide necessary support so that every teacher has the chance to develop and truly excel in their classrooms.”

Beutner expressed his support for teacher tenure but said he wants to find a way to make sure students are not stuck with teachers who are “not up to the task.”

“The reality is that a few people in the teaching profession are not helping students succeed,” he said. “An ineffective teacher can cause students to lose more than a year of learning, which is setting students up for failure. While more than 80 percent of effective teachers maintain standards for good attendance, more than 40 percent of ineffective teachers do not. We need a transparent, efficient, and fair process to manage ineffective teachers out. In the same way that we need to support teachers, we need to support students and make sure that they have great teachers in their classrooms.”

Speak Up parent Rosa Elena Andresen, who attended the speech, appreciated Beutner’s focus on teacher quality. “As a parent, this is exactly what I want to see,” she said. “I think we should reward those great teachers. We have great teachers in our district. But then again, we need some consequences for teachers who are no longer performing because they are affecting our children’s education. It’s not fair to students to have a teacher not performing where they need to be.”  

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Speak UP's Executive Director Katie Braude Calls For More State Education Funding

Speak UP's Executive Director Katie Braude Calls For More State Education Funding

Speak UP Executive Director Katie Braude called for more state education funding at Tuesday’s LAUSD board meeting. Her comments came in support of a resolution from Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) and Richard Vladovic (BD7) to endorse the Schools and Communities First Funding Act, a 2020 ballot initiative to reform Prop 13 so that all commercial and industrial property owners pay their fair share of taxes, which will generate revenue for education funding. The resolution passed unanimously Tuesday. The full text of Braude’s remarks follow:

Good afternoon Board President Garcia, Vice President Melvoin, Superintendent Beutner, and board members. My name is Katie Braude, and I’m the executive director of Speak UP. I’m here today to express our support for this resolution because we absolutely must find a way to increase state funding for our LAUSD students, teachers and schools.

How is it that California, one of the wealthiest, most progressive places in the nation, is not at the top of all 50 states in terms of school funding? Our schools should be models for the nation and the world. We’re nowhere near where we need to be. 

LAUSD is facing a serious financial crisis. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the district is on the brink of insolvency and faces the very real possibility of a state takeover, which will only make matters worse.

We agree with our teachers: Class sizes are too high. We don’t have enough librarians and counselors. Teachers are underpaid. Kids with special needs are not getting the services they need, in part because the federal government is not pulling its weight. And that’s not going to get any better under the current administration.

At the same time, our civic institutions cannot continue to operate in silos. A well-funded public education system is essential to changing the lives of the 80% of LAUSD students who live near or in poverty. But when housing is unaffordable, and parents lack the skills to qualify for higher paying jobs, academic success does not eradicate the hunger, health problems, housing instability, or fear of losing a parent to deportation facing children at home.

 We must work together to address the whole picture. One step is to create community schools with wrap-around services, language and job training classes for parents, and early childhood education. But we need full funding and community and governmental partnerships to make that happen.

Speak UP and our parents join with LAUSD teachers in calling on the state of California to do more. We need a strategy to bring in more state revenue. Prop 13 has starved our schools, and wealthy commercial property owners must pay their fair share. We cannot go on like this, fighting over scraps. We urge you to vote yes on this resolution.

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As County Orders Budget Cuts, McKenna Warns ‘The Worst Thing In The World’ Is Coming If UTLA Forces LAUSD Off Fiscal Cliff

As County Orders Budget Cuts, McKenna Warns ‘The Worst Thing In The World’ Is Coming If UTLA Forces LAUSD Off Fiscal Cliff

With the state superintendent’s office adding its voice Tuesday to the chorus of warnings about LAUSD’s finances, longtime allies of the teachers union are now among those saying that the union’s demands – under threat of a strike – could send LAUSD over the fiscal cliff.

“We can’t bargain ourselves into insolvency,” Board Member George McKenna (BD1), whose candidacy was backed by UTLA, said at the Board meeting Tuesday. “They can strike, and at some point we’ll settle the strike, but at what cost to the parents, to the children? I’m absolutely opposed to a strike. I’ve been through a strike. I know how hard it is for staff, parents, the children. It’s terrible.”

A strike could even deal a fatal blow to the district, which is already losing 16,000 students a year, said Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7). “When they go on strike, another 4000 parents are going to leave this district and go someplace else, and we’re going to lose the money for that,” he said. “And when they do that, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle of despair. Bad things are going to happen if there’s a strike, and I’ll tell you, you will never, ever recover.”

The dire warnings from Vladovic and McKenna came in response to remarks from Candi Clark, Chief Financial Officer of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), and Nick Schweizer, Deputy Superintendent of the California Department of Education.

Clark said that LACOE is giving only “conditional” approval to the LAUSD budget, and she directed the LAUSD Board to pass a resolution specifying $72 million in budget cuts by Oct. 8. Without those cuts, LAUSD will be insolvent within three years, she said. If that happens, state takeover will follow.

“I am concerned that the window of opportunity is closing to address the district’s fiscal challenges,” Clark said. “It’s imperative that the governing board step up its efforts to stabilize the district’s fiscal operation. The district cannot continue to go down the path of simply just drawing down the reserves.”

Schweizer spoke on behalf of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson -- a strong ally of the statewide teachers union -- and backed up Clark’s dire assessment. “We certainly share [LACOE’s] concerns about the deficit spending,” he said. “We support their conditional approval of the budget and their recommendation that the district begin addressing the deficit in a time sensitive manner.”

Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) asked Schweizer point blank whether his presence at the meeting was a “warning flag that you’re watching, and these issues are serious?”

Schweizer’s response: “Yes. My presence is indicative this is serious,” he said. “We are hoping that the district works with all of its partners to address solutions to this problem. This district needs to be strong and robust.” While “LAUSD is not alone” in facing financial pressures, it’s in “worse condition than many others,” he said.

Clark warned LAUSD not to use its reserve funds to cover ongoing salary increases, calling it “a key indicator for risk of potential insolvency.” Instead, she said that LAUSD must address its structural deficit. “It’s very clear that you’re living off the reserves. That’s not wise.”

LAUSD is currently spending more each year than it receives in revenues, and even after identifying an additional $72 million in cuts, LAUSD’s reserve fund will be a paltry $1.5 million within three years. If LAUSD does not bring its deficit spending under control, Clark said for a second time that LACOE may take financial control away from the LAUSD Board.

“We do believe in local control,” Clark said. “However, when the state’s early warning system necessitates our intervention in a school district, we are prepared to respond. Should the district continue to incur expenditures and erode the fund balance, our office is left with no other choice but to respond.”

LACOE recently rescinded Board authority at another school district, and McKenna, for one, took Clark’s warning to heart. “I was a superintendent in Inglewood, and they sent us a fiscal advisor because the Board continued to spend because of demands from unions saying ‘we want our money, we want it retroactive,’” he said.

Ultimately, it led to salary cuts and loss of local control. “A fiscal advisor will come and sit at the horseshoe and make all decisions that have to do with budget,” McKenna said. “The board will have nothing to say about it. We won’t be able to vote, nor will the superintendent.”

McKenna has also lived through the next step: state takeover. “It’s the worst thing in world,” McKenna said. “I was in Compton when it was in receivership. Our salaries don’t exist anymore. We don’t get paid. We’re now volunteers. The superintendent position disappears.”

Such comments from the union’s traditional allies marked a strong rebuke to union representatives that continue to deny the reality of LAUSD’s financial woes. The three-year budget process is designed as an early warning system so LAUSD can make budget cuts in time to prevent bankruptcy. Because LAUSD has been responsible enough to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff in the past, UTLA leaders accuse the district of crying wolf.

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Kids Should Not Be Collateral Damage In Teachers Strike

Kids Should Not Be Collateral Damage In Teachers Strike

With talks between United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD at a tense impasse and teachers voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, there’s one group caught in the middle that’s largely been left out of the discussion: L.A.’s kids.

A strike would have a dramatic impact on the kids and families of Los Angeles, where 84 percent of students are from low-income families that rely on schools to provide two free or reduced priced meals a day.

As the adults fight over salaries and district finances, there’s a simple fact that should not be forgotten or discounted: LAUSD kids would be deprived of an education during a strike. They are the innocent victims of these adult battles.

Last year, 70 percent of LAUSD students failed to meet state academic standards in math, and 60 percent failed to meet standards in English. Only 56 percent of LAUSD kids graduated eligible to even apply to a state four-year college. Clearly, our students cannot afford to lose more school days during a strike and fall even farther behind.

Nor can we ignore the burden on parents. How will parents ensure their kids are safe during a strike? Will parents have to take time off of work and lose wages to care for their kids? That would be a huge imposition for the families in Los Angeles.

Parents and kids love their teachers and want them to be well compensated. The average LAUSD teacher salary is $75,000, and rises to $110,000 with benefits, including free lifetime health care for teachers and spouses. However, the cost of employee pensions and healthcare is taking up an increasing portion of the education budget every year and will eat up 50 percent of the funding by the time this year’s kindergarteners graduate.

Most parents agree that California schools are underfunded, and we need more money for smaller class sizes, nurses and librarians – and to fund the promises made to retirees.

Given the current occupant of the White House, his education secretary and their frightening proposals to arm our educators, it’s perfectly understandable that teachers are in a fighting mood. I think we all are. But teachers and parents must join together to take that fight to those who actually have the power to increase funding: state lawmakers and the governor.

Strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, where average teacher salaries stalled at $45,000, were statewide strikes that led to more state funding. A local strike in Los Angeles will not have the same effect. In fact, the California state legislature just adjourned for the year on the same day UTLA authorized the strike. Lawmakers won’t be around to act even if they wanted to get involved.

LAUSD has budgeted in 6 percent raises for teachers, the same raises it is giving its other employees, whose unions have managed to finalize deals with LAUSD without a strike. But the district does not have enough money for those raises and UTLA’s other demands, totaling nearly $3 billion.

LAUSD is required by law to stay within its budget or risk state receivership. If that occurs, like it did in Inglewood, then draconian cuts will surely follow. Class sizes will increase even more. Teacher salaries and benefits may be cut. We will have fewer nurses, librarians and counselors. And the exodus of families fleeing LAUSD will accelerate. Just the threat of a strike is already prompting some parents to make contingency plans to move their children out of LAUSD schools mid-year.

It’s unfortunate that parents have had no voice in these contract talks because the negotiations have a direct impact on how their kids are educated. UTLA’s demands, for instance, would curb the number of new magnet schools, which are popular and successful options within LAUSD. With long waitlists at many LAUSD magnets, parents clearly want more quality magnet options, not fewer.

But no one is listening to families, and that’s part of the problem. Kids don’t have a union, and parents who represent kids’ interests have no seat at the negotiating table. Their only power is to walk away, and 12,000 students a year are doing just that — and taking their state education funding with them as they go.

Kids and families should not be an afterthought in labor talks. In fact, families would make the best natural allies for teachers in their fight for more state education funding, if we could all come together and collaborate to put the interests of kids first at LAUSD.

So before calling a local strike that will do nothing to stem enrollment loss or increase education funding, we urge UTLA leaders to please think about the kids. Students have done nothing wrong, but they are the ones who will pay the biggest price for a strike. Kids’ futures should never be collateral damage in this war between adults.

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LAUSD Charges UTLA With Bad-Faith Bargaining, Saying Union Has Wanted A Strike All Along

LAUSD Charges UTLA With Bad-Faith Bargaining, Saying Union Has Wanted A Strike All Along

Despite a pledge by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to do all he can to prevent a teachers strike, peace between L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles remains elusive.

On the same day LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner accepted Garcetti’s offer to intervene and facilitate a settlement, UTLA rejected the help and filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district. That prompted LAUSD to file its own charge accusing UTLA of bad-faith bargaining.

"UTLA engaged in take-it-or-leave-it bargaining, making virtually no compromises toward reaching an agreement for the better part of 16 months, LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist said in a statement. "UTLA talked openly about a strike long before the parties even began negotiations, let alone reached an impasse. It is now conducting a strike vote even though the parties have not even held their first mediation session.”

In fact, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl has been talking about a strike ever since he became president of UTLA. Two years ago, he told his members that “the next year-and-a-half must be founded upon building our capacity to strike, and our capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018.”

That prompted one commentator in LA School Report, Caroline Bermudez, to take Caputo-Pearl to task: “Threatening to strike should be an absolute last resort, not the first order of action.”

Two years before that, during an earlier UTLA contract negotiation, Caputo-Pearl mentioned a possible strike to a group of bewildered parents at Back to School Night, prompting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez to write the piece “Is the L.A. teachers union tone deaf?”

“The union has shown little flexibility: not on salary negotiations, tenure, student testing, teacher evaluations or anything else. How do you negotiate with that?” Lopez wrote. “UTLA's political strategy is borrowed in part from the Chicago Teachers Union, which led a strike two years ago that won pay increases for teachers but left bitter feelings all around…Hey, I understand the purpose of union rhetoric in the middle of contract negotiations…But a strike would be disastrous for students, parents and even teachers. And it could drive even more families out of the district or into the charter schools the union so despises.”  

Garcetti, in his remarks last week, also emphasized the importance of avoiding a strike, which will deprive kids of an education. "We need to make sure teachers are in schools and that children have teachers,” he told reporters Friday. “I will do anything that I can to make sure there is not a strike, or, if a strike is called, to directly intervene in negotiations.”

Meanwhile, UTLA claimed in its own unfair labor practice charge that LAUSD’s quick response to a Public Records Request from a KPCC reporter seeking  Caputo-Pearl’s employee disciplinary record was somehow an attempt to interfere with its strike vote. That’s despite the fact that the Los Angeles Times already published a story in 2014 based on those records, showing that Caputo-Pearl faced discipline for allegedly leaving campus during the school day to campaign for the union presidency, missing hours that added up to 17 days. 

An LAUSD spokeswoman said that the legal process for responding to a reporter’s request for public records “has nothing whatsoever to do with negotiations.”

However, one district source speculated that UTLA might be attempting to lay the groundwork for what’s called an “unfair practice” strike in order to bypass mediation and hold a strike on its preferred timeline. 

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, UTLA representative Glenn Sacks said “the strike is scheduled to begin Oct. 3,” even though the first mediation session between the two sides won’t happen until Sept. 27. UTLA is required by law to go through mediation, followed by a fact-finding process, before it is legally allowed to strike, making a legal strike on Oct. 3 almost impossible.

UTLA has been infuriated by the late September mediation start date, which makes a strike in October more difficult, and UTLA lawyers have complained to the Public Employee Relations Board, which oversees the bargaining process. LAUSD believes all of this is evidence that UTLA is not engaged in good-faith bargaining, and the goal all along has been to strike rather than reach a deal.   

”Upon Commencement of The Impasse process, UTLA Issues Histrionical Demands That The Mediation Process Wrap-Up Quickly So That It Could Commence Its Strike In October,” LAUSD wrote in its unfair labor practice charge. “When the schedule was not swift enough, UTLA went around the assigned mediator, writing to the Chief mediator, and demanding that mediation be bypassed, and the matter certified to fact finding, so that UTLA could strike as soon as possible…When that request was denied, UTLA, in violation of PERB rules, wrote directly to the PERB General Counsel and the Board itself, demanding that the process be expedited.”

Because of UTLA’s take-it-or-leave-it final offer, with $3 billion of demands that Beutner has said would lead to instant insolvency, Holmquist said, “it is clear that UTLA wishes to coerce the district into making what would be irresponsible financial decisions.”

The LA County Office of Education (LACOE) Chief Financial Officer, Candi Clark, made a surprise visit to the August 21 LAUSD Board meeting to underscore the serious fiscal situation facing LAUSD. Clark reminded the board that LACOE, which oversees the LAUSD budget, has the power to rescind the board’s decision-making authority if LAUSD spends more than laid out in its fiscal stabilization plan.

Garcetti, according to the Los Angeles Times, said that he empathized with teachers but also realizes that the district is in danger of going “off a cliff” financially, which would lead to “larger class sizes, possible layoffs, etc. So I think that it’s very important to live inside the means that we have.”

UTLA’s strike authorization vote is expected to conclude Thursday. Holmquist said that UTLA’s conduct throughout the bargaining process, including the timing of the strike authorization vote, “violates the Educational Employment Relations Act. The District has requested an expedited hearing and looks forward to presenting all the evidence."


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Speak UP's Katie Braude To LAUSD Board: Parents Should Not Have to Sleep On The Sidewalk To Speak To You

Speak UP's Katie Braude To LAUSD Board: Parents Should Not Have to Sleep On The Sidewalk To Speak To You

I am writing to share the collective dismay of parents and community members who attended the board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

In particular, I am writing on behalf of the parents who went to great lengths to arrange for childcare, organize transportation to travel long distances, and some of whom took off time from work to make their voices heard in a public forum on an issue of paramount importance to them and their children: the process for filling a vacant board seat so they can have representation.

After following the first-come, first-serve rules established by the Board of Education, which entailed arriving many hours in advance to secure a place in line for a speaker card, parents were shocked and dismayed to find that other individuals could walk in at the start of the board meeting and be assured of a speaking spot.

To what do they owe that privilege?

The board’s decision to expand the number of speaking spots to 25, and its brief consideration of shortening the speaking time of the parents who had played by the rules to accommodate the last-minute speakers, made a mockery of the democratic process required by the Brown Act.


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