LAUSD Board Proposes Taxpayer Oversight Committee To Make Sure Parcel Tax Funds Are Spent To Help Kids

LAUSD Board Proposes Taxpayer Oversight Committee To Make Sure Parcel Tax Funds Are Spent To Help Kids

LAUSD Board president Monica Garcia (BD2) and Board Member George McKenna (BD1) have introduced a resolution to create an Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee to report on the spending of any funds generated by measure EE, the proposed school parcel tax that voters will consider on June 4.

The committee would be tasked to report on whether parcel tax funds are spent for the purposes outlined in the measure, whether they’re spent equitably and whether they lead to better student achievement, more college readiness and fiscal stability at LAUSD.

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As Voters Consider School Parcel Tax, LACOE Threatens Takeover...Again

As Voters Consider School Parcel Tax, LACOE Threatens Takeover...Again

Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo is once again warning LAUSD that the County may step in and take decision-making authority away from the LAUSD Board if it fails to adequately address concerns about fiscal solvency and submit a budget that maintains the required minimum reserve funds.

The sternly worded letter from LACOE is the latest in a series of warnings from the agency that oversees LAUSD’s budget, which took the unprecedented step in January of assigning a team of fiscal experts to help. The letter also arrives as voters consider whether to support a parcel tax on the June ballot to increase school funding.

LACOE gave LAUSD a "qualified certification," citing district failure to address deficit spending, which has led to a "distressed financial condition." LACOE also cited "inattention" to LAUSD's $15.2 billion unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities (the promises made to future retirees, which the district has not set aside money to pay for) and its "inability to consider long-term effects of collective bargaining agreements."

The LAUSD Board at last month’s meeting approved a Fiscal Stabilization Plan that included a 15 percent reduction in central office staff, but the budget the district submitted to the County still fell $3 million short of balancing the budget and maintaining the required 1 percent reserve fund through the 2020-21 school year. 

The budget projections get even worse the following year. Unless a parcel tax passes, LAUSD is expected to have $749 million less than it’s required by law to keep in the bank by 2021-22.

LACOE is requiring LAUSD to work with its fiscal expert team to submit a new Fiscal Stabilization Plan by July 1 that shows a balanced budget with the required minimum reserves in the bank for the next three years.

“The District continues to demonstrate indicators of fiscal distress that must be addressed,” Duardo’s letter said. “Should the Governing Board fail to address all concerns identified in this letter, or fail to submit a 2019-20 Adopted Budget that meets the minimum reserve in any fiscal year, the County Superintendent is prepared to take further action that may include … assigning a Fiscal Advisor with stay and rescind authority over Governing Board actions.” 

That threat means the County could take over, remove local control from the LAUSD Board and start making unilateral cuts.

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LAUSD Will Fall $749 Million Below Required Reserve Fund Level in 2021-22 Unless Parcel Tax Passes

LAUSD Will Fall $749 Million Below Required Reserve Fund Level in 2021-22 Unless Parcel Tax Passes

Unless Los Angeles voters support a parcel tax in June, LAUSD will fall $749 million below the required 1 percent reserve levels during the 2021-22 school year, according to projections from LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Scott Price.

Price presented the latest incarnation of LAUSD’s required “fiscal stabilization plan” to the LAUSD Board Tuesday, which voted 4-1 to approve it. Board Member Scott Schmerelson (BD3) voted no, and George McKenna (BD1) abstained.

That plan was required by the Los Angeles County Office Of Education to show that LAUSD can balance its budget for the next three years. It includes a 15 percent reduction in central office staff at LAUSD’s Beaudry headquarters and in local district offices.

One of the positions listed on the chopping block is the deputy superintendent of schools currently occupied by Vivian Ekchian. That cut alone would save $300,000. It’s unclear whether Ekchian, who served as interim superintendent before Superintendent Austin Beutner was hired, will leave the district or take another position at LAUSD.

She did not return an email seeking comment, and Senior Executive Director of Finance and Policy Pedro Salcido said LAUSD is focused on reducing budgets on specific offices by a targeted amount rather than eliminating specific individual jobs. “There are still decisions being made on central office staff and what that will look like,” Salcido said. “But as you are making reductions in offices, one of the better ways to couch it is in positions, but it doesn’t exactly mean that it will translate into elimination of a deputy superintendent.”

While cutting bureaucratic staff at LAUSD’s Beaudry headquarters, the district is planning to drive more money to school sites, where students may see benefits in reduced class sizes, more nurses, counselors and librarians – all changes that United Teachers Los Angeles pushed for in its new contract.

“We are investing in schools,” Price said. “Those are the benefits those parents will see in each of their local schools.”

The current fiscal stabilization plan and the required three-year budget forecast will take the district through the year 2020-21, and even with the plan in place, LAUSD is projected to fall $3 million below the required reserve amount in 2020-2021. But in June, LAUSD will be required to show its plan for the following school year, too, and at that point LAUSD will move deep into the red unless new revenue is found or more cuts are made.

If the Measure EE parcel tax passes, it will add an estimated $350 million a year to the bottom line of LAUSD (and some smaller amount to independent charter schools) starting next January. That would reduce some of LAUSD’s persistent financial problems. “It would change the dialogue of this district,” Price said.

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LAUSD School Board Votes To Put Parcel Tax on June Ballot

LAUSD School Board Votes To Put Parcel Tax on June Ballot

The LAUSD Board voted unanimously Thursday  to put a parcel tax measure on the June 4 ballot. If it gets the support of two-thirds of voters, it will bring in an estimated $500 million annually in additional funding for both traditional district schools and independent charter schools in Los Angeles. Schools would begin seeing these funds in January.

The ballot measure calls for a tax of 16 cents per square foot for real estate parcels within district boundaries. Senior citizens 65 and older who occupy a property as their primary residence may apply for an exemption, as can those receiving certain types of Social Security benefits, regardless of age.

The idea of a parcel tax was first floated last year, but internal LAUSD polling showed that there was not enough public support to pass it last November. The six-day teachers strike in January, however, raised public awareness about LAUSD’s financial crisis and increased support for public education. The Board decided the best time to act is now.

“There has probably never been greater public momentum for increasing public school funding, thanks to the heightened awareness about California’s dismal 44th in the nation status on per pupil funding,” said Katie Braude, Executive Director of Speak UP, in her testimony before the board. Braude was one of about 20 advocates who spoke in favor of the resolution, though not without conditions.

“We cannot expect taxpayers to put more money into a system that has failed to close the achievement gap for our most vulnerable kids for decades, without also assuring them that there is independent oversight on how the money is spent,” Braude added. She also called for an independent citizens’ committee "to annually audit the expenditures and require that the district demonstrate how they are being used to close the achievement gap.”           

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LAUSD Board Says Schools And Students Are Stuck With Ineffective Teachers

LAUSD Board Says Schools And Students Are Stuck With Ineffective Teachers

A resolution designed to empower school principals to hire the best candidates for open teaching positions at their schools, rather than be saddled with so-called ‘must place’ teachers, failed on a 2-4 vote at Tuesday’s LAUSD board meeting.

Despite enthusiastic support from district parents, the Empowering Schools and Teachers resolution from Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) seemed doomed from the start of the meeting. It was only minutes in when co-sponsor Richard Vladovic (BD7) asked that his name be removed. Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) added her name as co-sponsor in his place, but she was the only yes vote. 

“I’m supporting this resolution because I feel like local control matters,” Garcia said.

Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) said she was “philosophically in support of this resolution,” but she had too many questions about cost and potential conflicts with the current United Teachers Los Angeles contract.

Speak UP parents were among those who made impassioned pleas for the resolution’s passage.  

“No principal should be forced to hire from a must place list,” said Roxann Nazario, a parent from Board District 6 who is considering enrolling her daughter in a district middle school but has reservations because of the policy. “There has to come a point when an ineffective teacher can be let go.”

Raquel Toscano, BD5, told of a family member abused by a teacher. “If you vote no, how many more children will be victims and will go through the same?”

Both Nazario and Toscano expressed pointed frustration and disappointment with Vladovic, who made a conspicuous exit immediately before the public speaking period on the resolution.

Vladovic had walked out of the meeting soon after Melvoin raised concerns about renaming a school after an administrator who had been accused of failing to properly “share sufficient details regarding allegations” of employee sexual abuse, according to an investigative report by a law firm LAUSD hired, which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Vladovic was so upset that Melvoin did not support the school being named after his friend that he withdrew his co-sponsorship of Melvoin’s resolution in response, one source said.

Last fall, Vladovic told the Board that the district should apologize to parents because ineffective teachers had ruined their kids’ lives. But on Tuesday, Vladovic made it clear that his post-strike allegiance was now firmly with the teachers union. “We ought to do it collaboratively with UTLA,” he said. “I think UTLA and the district have the same interest. We want to have the best in front of our children. I think we can work it out as a family.”

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Principals Should Have Freedom To Choose Teachers That Best Fit Their Schools

Principals Should Have Freedom To Choose Teachers That Best Fit Their Schools

The LAUSD Board will vote on a resolution Tuesday to give principals more power to choose teachers that best fit their schools and to ensure that teachers are not forced to take assignments at schools against their wishes.

It’s long past time LAUSD ended forced hiring, and the Board should pass this resolution from Board Members Nick Melvoin (BD4) and Richard Vladovic (BD7) in order to help improve both school performance and teacher morale.

“I’ve heard consistently from parents and principals, they want the autonomy to choose the teachers that are right for that school,” Melvoin told Speak UP. “The most important factor in the quality of a kid’s education is the quality of the teacher. School site leaders have a vested interest in making sure they have effective teachers. If you just empower that group of people and let them choose great teachers, instruction will improve.”

The Board already recognized the importance of hiring the right teachers to turning around low-performing schools when it decided last June to exempt the bottom 25 percent of schools from being forced to accept must-place teachers they didn’t want. But there are many schools above the bottom 25 percent where students are also struggling to succeed. No school should be forced to accept teachers that are not a fit, and this resolution would codify the policy across the entire district.

Melvoin also believes that happy teachers are more effective teachers, and principals at low-performing schools have confirmed that teachers who are forced to work at a school against their will rarely do a great job. Principals often prefer substitutes to must-place teachers.

“The idea is to respect teachers as professionals and not put them where they don’t want to be teaching,’ Melvoin said. “A teacher is going to be happier if they’re at a school they want to be at. Happier employees are usually more productive.”  

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Is My School On Low-Performing List? Good Luck Deciphering State's Confusing Report

Is My School On Low-Performing List? Good Luck Deciphering State's Confusing Report

The California Department of Education released a list of the lowest performing schools in the state last week, a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As a parent with two kids at a San Fernando Valley public school and a journalist who often covers education, I was interested to see which Los Angeles schools were on the list.

When I opened the spreadsheet, the list looked daunting. From what I could tell, the schools were in no particular order. A school in Yuba City Unified was followed by one in Riverside Unified, which was followed by one in Lodi Unified. I couldn’t figure out how to narrow the field to Los Angeles schools, beyond scrolling down the massive list. So I did what any good journalist would do. I called the communications office at the Department of Education.

A few minutes later, I had my answer: Click on the caret on the right side of the blue bar atop the C column, go to Filter Table and then scroll down to Los Angeles Unified. I’d now narrowed the results to see LAUSD only. That’s when I saw my kids’ school. I don’t think I said a four-letter word out loud. But I’m pretty sure I thought one. I was shocked and concerned. My eyes wandered, and I caught the name of the West Side school a friend’s son attends. I thought it was so well regarded. Apparently not. I sent her an email. I figured she’d want to know.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realized my error. In fact, every public elementary, middle and high school in the state—traditional district, magnet, affiliated and independent charter—appears on the list. (Yes, I immediately let my friend know.) In order to see the lowest performing schools in the district, and only those schools, it turned out I had to use another filter. (In case you’re wondering, the spreadsheet features seven columns: a 14-digit county district school code, the school name, district name, county name, Title 1 status, assistance status, and reporting year.)

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Board Led By Garcia Calls on State To Ban New Charters For Nearly A Year

Board Led By Garcia Calls on State To Ban New Charters For Nearly A Year

It was a dark day Tuesday for supporters of school choice. Despite thousands of parents, students and educators rallying against a resolution calling on the state to impose a charter moratorium, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia stunned her longtime supporters with a yes vote, guaranteeing its passage.

The resolution was part of a backroom deal that Superintendent Austin Beutner and some board members made with UTLA to end its week-long strike. Only Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) stood up for the rights of kids and voted no.

“We’re talking about telling families living in poverty that…they’re out of luck because they don’t have the options that families like mine had,” he said. “That’s about the least progressive thing I can imagine. Let’s be clear: we’re not talking about a moratorium on private schools, which educate 10 percent of the city’s students, and we’re not talking about limiting people’s ability to buy homes in more affluent neighborhoods or to go to magnet schools—many of which are explicitly creaming based on being gifted.”  

The resolution calls on the state to impose a temporary ban on new charter schools while their impact on the district is studied. Its chief sponsor, Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7), amended his resolution Tuesday to place an 8-to-10-month time limit on the moratorium, which won’t be enacted unless the state legislature passes it and the governor signs it.

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Board To Vote On Backroom Charter Ban That Undermines Democracy, Parent Choice

 Board To Vote On Backroom Charter Ban That Undermines Democracy, Parent Choice

The LAUSD Board will vote Tuesday on a resolution from Board member Richard Vladovic (BD7) calling for a moratorium on new LAUSD charter schools and a statewide study to consider policy changes related to charter co-locations, the fiscal impact of charters and facilities management.

It calls on the state to create a moratorium on new charter schools and asks the LAUSD superintendent to find out whether a ballot initiative would be needed to put an end to all new charters within LAUSD boundaries. It also calls for a study on the financial impact of charters on LAUSD – with a goal toward potential policy changes that could result in LAUSD gaining the power to shut down all high-performing charter schools simply because they successfully compete for students with traditional LAUSD schools.

Furthermore, it calls for study of co-locations and facilities management – again with the end goal of calling for policies that could potentially deprive charter children of the right to equal use of public school space.

The resolution upset both district and charter parents who support school choice, who immediately began mobilizing to advocate for its defeat. Jennifer McKay, who has two kids at her LAUSD neighborhood school, signed Speak UP’s petition opposing the resolution.

 “This must be so stressful for many of my friends,” she said. “I am 100 percent on board with improving district schools, but certainly not at the expense of children currently enrolled in a place where they are happy or preventing parents from choosing for their own child what works best. I’m saddened to see this may be [causing] further division among parents.”

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Angry Parents Say Small Gains Did Not Justify Strike, While Move To Limit Parent Choices Harms Kids

Angry Parents Say Small Gains Did Not Justify Strike, While Move To Limit Parent Choices Harms Kids

The strike is finally over, and parents are breathing a huge sigh of relief that kids will be back in school with their teachers Wednesday. However, parents expressed deep disappointment with a deal that accomplished only minor class size decreases and underscored what was apparently UTLA’s main mission all along: to limit parent choices.

“The small tangible gains they made, do not feel like it was worth a strike,” said Fang Huang, a parent at Broadway Mandarin Immersion program in Venice. “The gains were more in the political arena. It doesn’t seem like they gained that much for students.”

Teachers received the same 6 percent raises that LAUSD had been offering for months, and while UTLA got rid of a clause allowing LAUSD to unilaterally increase class sizes, that also had been offered before the strike began. The deal only decreases class sizes by one student this year, one student next year and by two students in 2021-22 (contingent, perhaps, on the public passing a parcel tax).

While it’s illegal for LAUSD to bargain charter school policy as part of contract negotiations, it looks like that’s exactly what happened. In order to end the strike, UTLA appears to have held the district hostage and is forcing the Board to introduce a resolution next Tuesday calling on the state to cap the number of new charter schools until their impact could be studied at the state.

It’s unclear whether the resolution has enough votes to pass -- and whether a vote on the new UTLA contract would be derailed if the charter resolution does not. Even if it does pass, only the state can place a cap the number of charters, not LAUSD.

Nevertheless, parents saw it as a blatant power grab by the union and a clear attempt overturn the results of the democratic school board elections in 2017, in which voters elected board members who were supportive of school choice. Parents are now gearing up for a battle -- potentially with Board members they had thought were in their corner.

“I’m infuriated,” said Roxann Nazario, a parent at a charter school in Board District 6 who campaigned for Board Member Kelly Gonez, who did not respond to calls or emails asking for her position on the charter cap resolution. “We elected her to protect us from this exact situation. I really hope she would never vote for this.”

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Parents Fed Up By UTLA’s $45 Million Decision To Keep Teachers Out Tuesday, Even If A Deal is Reached

Parents Fed Up By UTLA’s $45 Million Decision To Keep Teachers Out Tuesday, Even If A Deal is Reached

UTLA’s decision to keep teachers on the picket lines and out of schools Tuesday, regardless of whether a deal is struck Monday night, infuriated parents and could cost teachers and the district a total of more than $45 million in losses.

“It is important to know, whether or not we reach an agreement late tonight, we will NOT be going to work,” UTLA wrote on its Facebook page. “Report to picket lines as usual in the morning on Tuesday.”

The patience of parents who had been trying to support the teachers was starting to wear thin.

“If they make a deal, what’s the point in still striking?” said Tanisha Hall, who has two kids at Washington High, one at Bret Harte middle school and one at 95th Street elementary in South L.A.. “This is super irritating. I need these kids back in school.”

While UTLA said that teachers needed to ratify the tentative agreement before ending the strike, some observers said there was no reason they had to do that. The decision means that teachers will lose pay for both the Monday holiday and Tuesday – costing every teachers an additional $20 million and costing LAUSD around $25 million.

That means the total losses could top $45 million for keeping teachers out of the classroom an extra day.

Some questioned whether the real reason was that UTLA had another celebrity-filled rally planned for Tuesday that it didn’t want to cancel. A UTLA flyer posted on social media advertised: “Invited Guest: Alyssa Milano” and musical performances by Quetzal and DJ Phatrick.

Parents noticed that UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl spent Friday in the audience of Bill Maher’s show rather than at the negotiating table.  

“I’m with the teachers getting a fair shake, but not if they’re striking for publicity,” Hall said. That’s foolish and irresponsible.”

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Administrators Union Says UTLA Demands Would ‘Castrate’ Principals, While Vladovic Warns LAUSD ‘May Cease To Exist’

Administrators Union Says UTLA Demands Would ‘Castrate’ Principals, While Vladovic Warns LAUSD ‘May Cease To Exist’

With net losses at the district topping $75 million Friday, the union representing LAUSD principals – who have borne the brunt of running schools and supervising kids with skeleton staffs all week – called for an end to the teachers strike, saying UTLA’s demands would “castrate” principals.

“The time has come for the strike to be settled and for teachers to return to the classroom immediately, if not sooner,” Associated Administrators of Los Angeles wrote in its weekly newsletter. AALA also said UTLA’s demands would “usurp” control over school decision-making from principals, including all school expenditures.

“AALA is vehemently against UTLA’s proposals to castrate the little to almost no decision-making authority principals currently have," AALA wrote. “Great schools do not exist apart from great leaders. AALA must go on record petitioning the District to protect the little autonomy principals and assistant principals currently have," or it will become "nearly impossible to meet the needs of the students."

As a day of bargaining at the mayor’s office came to a close with no resolution in sight, Board Member Richard Vladovic put out an almost panicked statement on social media, indicating that perhaps LAUSD should just give UTLA what it wants to end the strike – even though it would result in insolvency.

“I can no longer take the suffering that is taking place by everyone that has been disrupted by this work stoppage,” Vladovic said. “Therefore, I have decided that the District should do anything reasonable to settle these contract demands…Without the support of our Legislature, the Governor, and our labor partners, this District may cease to exist due to bankruptcy, jobs may be lost; and at that stage, I wish whoever succeeds me on the Board of Education has the necessary solutions to address this crisis.”

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UTLA Vows to Stick With Talks, ‘Grind This Out Until We Get An Agreement’

UTLA Vows to Stick With Talks, ‘Grind This Out Until We Get An Agreement’

As LAUSD and UTLA returned to the negotiating table Thursday, student attendance plummeted 37 percent from the day before to its lowest level yet, and the district’s net losses from the strike grew to $57 million.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Superintendent Austin Beutner met briefly with Mayor Eric Garcetti to set some ground rules Thursday, and then both men decided to delegate talks to their bargaining teams. The two sides continued to negotiate at City Hall, with the mayor’s staff mediating until shortly after midnight. Talks resume at 11 a.m. Friday and are expected to last through the weekend.

Caputo-Pearl said both sides had agreed to keep the details of the talks confidential, but the sticking points were over class sizes, charter co-locations and hiring. “I would not frame it as us being close to each other,” he said, but “we’ve made an agreement to grind this out until we get an agreement.”

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UTLA Returns To The Negotiating Table After Mounting Pressure From Black Clergy, Business Leaders

UTLA Returns To The Negotiating Table After Mounting Pressure From Black Clergy, Business Leaders

After facing pressure from black clergy and business leaders, UTLA is returning to the negotiating table Thursday, with Mayor Eric Garcetti attempting to mediate a solution.

“We will be in bargaining tomorrow,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who met with Garcetti and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond on Wednesday. Talks are likely to continue into the weekend, he added.

In a strongly worded letter sent Wednesday, more than 20 African-American clergy members urged Caputo-Pearl to get back to the negotiating table, saying “the fortunes of African American children do not improve on the picket line."

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Schools Lose Millions A Day During Strike With No End In Sight

Schools Lose Millions A Day During Strike With No End In Sight

After losing $15 million in attendance revenue the first day of the teachers strike Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner called on United Teachers Los Angeles to join him at the table and in lobbying the state to provide the funding needed to end the labor impasse.

“We need our educators back in our classrooms,” Beutner said. “I’m not going to shut the schools. Shutting schools leaves those children out in the rain, leaves them without a warm meal, leaves them without a path, without a promise…We have to resolve this now.”

Attendance was up 13 percent Tuesday, with 163,384 kids going to school without their teachers.

United Teachers Los Angeles has refused to return to the negotiating table since talks broke down Friday, despite pleas from LAUSD parents and an assist from the County Board of Supervisors, which approved some additional funding Tuesday for mental health and nursing at Los Angeles schools.

Instead, UTLA spent the day picketing at the California Charter Schools Association to push for a cap on the number of charter schools, even though that’s not a legal part of the contract bargaining process. Some parents who wanted to support the teachers on the picket line were furious at the assault on public charter schools. One UTLA teacher whose own child attends a charter school posted on Facebook that she declined to participate in the rally.

“I am standing up to improve their school conditions and give them better opportunities for health and learning,” she said. “As for the anti-charter talk, I detest it.”

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As L.A. Rains On Teachers Strike, Many Kids Stay Home

As L.A. Rains On Teachers Strike, Many Kids Stay Home

Striking teachers huddled under ponchos and tents outside in the rain as half-empty buses and parents dropped off about 150,000 LAUSD students at schools for the first day of the first United Teachers Los Angeles strike in 30 years.

Parents at many West Side elementary schools reported sparse attendance – fewer than 100 kids at some schools, and just over 100 at others. Paseo Del Rey elementary school parent Troy Clements brought his three kids in. “I love my teachers here,” he said, but “my kids have perfect attendance, and I wanted them to keep that.” 

Marlton School, a K-12 school in South Los Angeles, which serves many kids who are deaf and hard of hearing, had more than half of their usual students, but only a quarter showed up at El Sereno Middle School, where LAUSD’s Chief Academic Officer Francis Gipson was back in the classroom teaching kids. She was one of 2,000 central office administrators deployed to school sites to help.

Teacher protests at schools were mostly peaceful, although parents at several schools reported problems at drop-off. A parent at Marquez Elementary, an affiliated charter in Pacific Palisades, said picketers harassed her as she tried to take her twins to school, including one with autism and a genetic disorder. 

“I am a working single mother with a disabled child,” the parent told Speak UP. “Picketers blocked our access to the handicap spot and heckled us. LAPD had to move them. It was very disappointing. Once the kids got to campus it was OK, but crossing that line was a bear. It is shameful. If the goal was to make me sympathetic to LAUSD, they succeeded. I thought that was impossible.”

A grandmother at Kentwood elementary in Westchester said that her grandson’s teacher yelled at him as he walked into school and told him not to allow the substitute to sit at or use anything on her desk. “I’m very upset over this,” she said. “I asked her to take a step back.”

One parent volunteer at another West Side school reported that someone wearing union red took her photograph to intimidate her as she showed up to help. And a parent at Braddock Elementary school’s Mandarin Immersion program said a drunk man she did not recognize (and who was not a teacher at the school) walked off the picket line and started an altercation with her and her husband until police were called.

Parents at WISH charter middle school, which co-locates at Westchester High, said picketing teachers blocked the entrance to their valet drop-off, and one picketer flipped off a parent and her kids. 

“The kids were a little upset,” said Chloe Donovan who has a child at WISH middle, a national model of inclusive education for kids with special needs. “They didn’t understand what was going on. It makes me feel a little sad because I definitely support the teachers. They forget we’re all LAUSD families, and we’re all just looking for places to send our children.”

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Parents’ and Kids’ Lives Thrown Into Disarray As UTLA Goes On Strike ‘For As Long As It Takes’

Parents’ and Kids’ Lives Thrown Into Disarray As UTLA Goes On Strike ‘For As Long As It Takes’

United Teachers Los Angeles confirmed that its members will go on strike for the first time in 30 years on Monday, throwing the lives of parents and kids into disarray as they wrestle with whether to send their kids to understaffed schools or scramble to find and pay for childcare for an undetermined period of time.

“Our members are prepared to strike for as long as it takes,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said Sunday.

LAUSD made new offers last week for 6 percent raises, lower class sizes and more nurses, counselors and librarians. UTLA rejected the latest offer Friday, and no new talks took place over the weekend.

“Los Angeles Unified did not want a strike and offered UTLA leaders a $565 million package to significantly reduce class sizes, add nearly 1,200 educators in schools, and provide all UTLA members with 6 percent salary raises,” LAUSD said in a statement Sunday. “Los Angeles Unified remains committed to contract negotiations and will continue to work around the clock to find solutions to end the strike which will hurt students, families and communities most in need throughout Los Angeles.”

Many parents are worried about their kids’ safety and the quality of instruction during a strike. Debi Anderson has a daughter with autism at Hamilton High and a son in the School For Advanced Studies at University High.

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LACOE Chief Explains LAUSD’s Financial Crisis, Decries Unions’ 'Racist and Sexist’ Attacks As 'Unacceptable, Inappropriate And Frankly, Something We’re Not Going To Tolerate’

LACOE Chief Explains LAUSD’s Financial Crisis, Decries Unions’ 'Racist and Sexist’ Attacks As 'Unacceptable, Inappropriate And Frankly, Something We’re Not Going To Tolerate’

Speak UP: Can you explain the deficit spending part because UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl came out the other day and said, “We have budget documents showing there has been no deficit spending for the last five years.” The union is claiming there is no deficit spending, while LAUSD says they're spending roughly $500 million more every year that than they're bringing in. Can you explain from the county's perspective, is there a deficit, and what should parents believe?

Debra: Well, our definition of deficit spending is when more money is going out than what you're bringing in. And from all of what we’ve seen in terms of LAUSD documents provided to us, they are spending more, and evidence to that is the fact that they're going from a 10 percent reserve to an 0.96 percent reserve [in three years]. So, if they weren't deficit spending, we wouldn't see this reserve dwindling down to below 1 percent.

Speak UP: That make sense. UTLA is also questioning the timing of this letter. Can you explain the timing? It's coming right in the middle of these negotiations. Did the letter have anything to do with that, or did the timing have to do with something else?

Debra: Our timeline is driven by Ed Code, not union negotiations. These union negotiations have been taking place for a long time. We have 80 districts [for whom] we are providing oversight on their budget and certifying whether they have a positive, qualified or negative budget. The timeline per Ed Code for us to make sure that we certify all of these is Jan. 14. So, it's a few days early, but it's right at the deadline. There are a billion and a half kids in LA County. It's unfortunate that the union or other people may see it that way, and I can see why they might because of the closeness in the timing, but if you look at that Ed Code, you know we're following what's prescribed there.

Speak UP: The other thing that the union is questioning is the independence of the county. UTLA is saying that there is some collusion between LAUSD and LACOE, which oversees LAUSD budget. They're basically implying that it's actually the other way around -- that the District is controlling the County Board of Education. Can you address these allegations and tell us whether you are in the district’s pocket and a puppet of the district, as UTLA claims?

Debra: That's absolutely not true. The decision to go in with the fiscal experts, actually the decision is mine. It's up to the County Superintendent, It doesn't even require my Board's approval. So, the question that the County Board of Education is controlled by LAUSD is absolutely wrong. I am a longtime educator, and I care about kids. And when I see a budget that's dwindling down with a district this large, and the impact that that has on children and families and interruption to their instruction, I'm going to go in there and I'm going to do my job and make sure that we're giving them the support that they need. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the union negotiations.

Speak UP: UTLA and a consultant for the administrator’s union did the same thing with Dr. Candi Clark, the Chief Financial Officer for LACOE. They really maligned her personally and attacked the credibility and credentials of this African American woman in a way that was pretty sexist and racist. They implied that she was a puppet of the district, said that she didn't write her own speech to the Board. UTLA claimed they had emails showing that the district wrote her speech. Can you address these conspiracy theories that we hear a lot from the unions?

Debra: That again is another absolute false statement. Dr. Clark is a very strong CFO, absolutely writes her own speeches. Everything that was written in her speech is in alignment with what she's been writing to the district over the past year. There was nothing new in there, nothing different. I was actually with her. We had a meeting, as we meet with all our superintendents in the county. I believe it was about their differentiated assistance, and they were going to have a Board meeting that day. I asked him how we could assist. He said it would be helpful if we would share the information, our concerns that we shared with him, to his Board. I had a board meeting that same day, and I said, "Absolutely, I can't be there but Dr. Clark can stay," and she wrote her speech at LAUSD. She used their laptop, then wanted to send it for us to review because it had to be approved by me. So, because they saw that there was an email that went from LAUSD to her, they made the assumption that someone else or LAUSD wrote her speech, which is absolutely preposterous. I also agree, and I think it's really unfortunate that she's been attacked in an unfair way. And I agree that there's been some sexist and racist remarks that I think are unacceptable.

Speak UP: At one Board meeting, a consultant for the administrators union even publicly called her “Miss Candy Crush or Crunch or whatever.” Do you have any comments about people working for the unions maligning and insulting a public official in this way publicly?

Debra: I find it offensive, and I find unacceptable, inappropriate and, frankly, something that were not going to tolerate. That is just uncalled for.

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Rejecting LAUSD New Offer, UTLA’s Alex Caputo-Pearl Says Unless There’s A Surprise: ‘Get Ready, Because On Monday, We Will Be On Strike’

Rejecting LAUSD New Offer, UTLA’s Alex Caputo-Pearl Says Unless There’s A Surprise: ‘Get Ready, Because On Monday, We Will Be On Strike’

Despite a new offer from LAUSD to add $130 million to lower class sizes and hire 1200 additional educators and nurses, negotiations between LAUSD and United Teacher Los Angeles ended in impasse Friday. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said that absent some surprise offer from LAUSD, “Get ready, because on Monday, we will be on strike.”

LAUSD implored UTLA to reconsider its decision to walk away from the table. “We are extremely disappointed that United Teachers Los Angeles has rejected Los Angeles Unified’s revised offer without proposing any counter offer,” the district said in a statement after talks broke down. “UTLA has refused to continue contract negotiations.”

The district is also formally asking Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene. “We need his help,” said LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner. “We do not want a strike. We ask for his help now to resolve this so we can keep our schools open, we can keep kids safe and learning in school.”

The new offer LAUSD put forward Friday was in response to additional funding in Newsom’s budget proposal unveiled Thursday, as well as an additional $10 million the county is providing to beef up nursing services at schools. It would allow LAUSD to add a nurse five days a week at every elementary school. Most schools only have a nurse one day a week now.

LAUSD also offered to lower class sizes by two at every middle school and high school, cap the number of students in grades 4-6 at 35 students and add a counselor at every comprehensive high school. The district is also promising “no increase in any current class sizes.”

But the co-chair of UTLA’s bargaining team described the new offer as “insufficient” and “woefully inadequate” because the new hires were only guaranteed for one year. “That just doesn’t cut it.” 

Beutner reiterated his frustration with UTLA’s lack of movement from what he described as $3 billion in demands that haven’t changed in nearly two years, which he said would instantly render the district insolvent. 

“What is it UTLA wants to avoid a strike? We do not know," Beutner said. "We’ve done the best that we can. If they’ve decided to strike irrespective of what we offer, we’d like them to answer to the community how that helps students, how that helps families and how that helps educators.”

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Parents Scramble After Learning Preschools Will Close During Strike, But Governor’s Budget Offers Glimmer Of Hope

 Parents Scramble After Learning Preschools Will Close During Strike, But Governor’s Budget Offers Glimmer Of Hope

Parents of about 13,000 kids attending LAUSD’s California State Preschool Programs and Early Education Childhood Centers are scrambling to find childcare before Monday after learning that 180 LAUSD preschools will close during a teachers strike to all children except those in special education.

“If the teachers strike, we will not be able to adhere to the teacher-child ratios specified by the state’s Department of Social Services, which licenses the centers,” said an LAUSD spokeswoman, who advised parents to check a list of the schools here. The closures are “for the safety of our students,” added Dean Tagawa, executive director of LAUSD’s Early Childhood Education Division.  

UTLA has threatened to have teachers walk off the job Monday, Jan. 14 unless a deal is reached, and a court on Thursday confirmed that the strike date was legal. The news of preschool closures came as a shock to parents who had been told that all LAUSD schools would remain open during a strike. 

“It’s really hard,” said former Board District 5 candidate Justine Gonzalez, Speak UP’s Parent of the Month, whose daughter attends one of the early educations centers that will close. “I have to work to pay my bills. I have to pay my rent. I thought I would at least have the option to send her if our family needed to.”

LAUSD is making an exception for children who attend preschool Collaborative Classrooms and other preschool programs for kids with special needs. Those kids will be able to attend from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The District is “assigning Central Office staff for these programs to ensure that students’ services remain seamless at our schools should a strike occur,” Tagawa said.

But the closures put many parents in a precarious position. The preschool programs primarily serve low-income working parents who could lose their jobs if forced to take time off of work to care for their kids for days or weeks during a strike. Once again, the most vulnerable kids and families will suffer the most.  

“It’s scary,” said Gonzalez, who has no idea what she will do with her daughter if the teachers walk out. “This is a need-based program [serving] young working parents, for the most part. These are folks who need it because they work and can’t afford other options.”

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