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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LACOE Appoints Fiscal Experts To 'Compel' LAUSD To End Deficit Spending, As UTLA Denies Reality Of Fiscal Crisis

LACOE Appoints Fiscal Experts To 'Compel' LAUSD To End Deficit Spending, As UTLA Denies Reality Of Fiscal Crisis

With LAUSD showing “signs of serious signs of fiscal distress that cannot be ignored,” the Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, who oversees LAUSD's budget, has appointed a team of fiscal experts to "compel the district" to end its deficit spending and right its financial ship. The move brings LAUSD one step closer state takeover and the loss of local control over its budget.

In a press release and a letter sent to LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia, LACOE Superintendent Debra Duardo expressed concerns over the risk of district insolvency, calling into question whether LAUSD’s latest offer to UTLA is affordable. Among the concerns were:

* Inability to consider long-term impacts of collective bargaining agreements

* Staff unrest and/or low morale

* Deficit spending and failure to maintain adequate reserves and fund balance

* Lack of control and monitoring of total [employee] compensation as a percentage of total expenses 

* Inattention to the district’s $19 billion unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities. 

Despite the sternly worded warnings, the United Teachers Los Angeles continues to deny the reality of LAUSD’s fiscal crisis. When asked to produce a single independent expert who could back up the union’s interpretation of the district’s financial health, UTLA President Alex-Caputo Pearl cited UTLA’s own forensic experts and those from the statewide teachers union. This begs the question of whether UTLA understands the meaning of the word “independent.”

Instead of taking LACOE’s warnings to heart, UTLA continued to attack the credibility of the county overseers and falsely claimed that the district has no deficit spending. The union’s rejection of the consensus of county and state overseers, two independent financial review panels and a neutral state-appointed fact finder —which confirmed the district’s deficit spending — are drawing comparisons to climate deniers who reject the consensus of science. 

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UTLA Delays Strike Until Monday, As LAUSD Pleads With State Leaders For More School Funding

UTLA Delays Strike Until Monday, As LAUSD Pleads With State Leaders For More School Funding

UTLA delayed the start of a potential teachers strike until Monday, Jan. 14, as LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia headed to Sacramento to plead with state leaders for more school funding to meet teacher demands and avert a strike.

“Los Angeles Unified is doing everything possible to avoid a strike,” Beutner said. “We are working with state leaders to find more resources to better support our students and all who work in our schools.”

LAUSD and UTLA resumed talks Wednesday at LAUSD headquarters, and the strike delay may give the two sides more time to reach a deal that would spare parents, kids and teachers the pain of a walkout.

UTLA’s decision to delay came after the Los Angeles Superior Court declined to rule on the legality of a Thursday strike until Thursday morning. "We do not want to bring confusion and chaos to an already fluid situation," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement sent to teachers.

The district’s meetings with state leaders Wednesday underscored LAUSD’s difficult financial challenges. LAUSD sweetened its offer to UTLA in talks Monday, adding $75 million to the $30 million prior offer to lower class sizes and hire more nurses, counselors and librarians. UTLA called that offer “inadequate.”

Beutner has said that he would like to meet all of UTLA’s demands, but they would cost billions and would lead instantly to insolvency and state takeover. About 90 percent of the funding LAUSD receives comes from the state. 

The question on everyone’s mind is, where is Governor Gavin Newsom? Newsom was elected with help from the statewide teachers union and in recent days has highlighted plans for more preschool and college funding, but he has remained notably silent on K-12 education funding, as teachers in the state’s largest district prepare to strike.

Newsom is expected to release a detailed budget proposal in coming days but has made no comment on the financial crisis in Los Angeles. Other school districts in California are also facing a funding crunch because the required district contributions for teacher pensions are rising dramatically. Sacramento Unified recently had its budget denied by the county, and cuts were ordered. Teachers in Oakland are also on the verge of a strike.

“We remain committed to providing every student in Los Angeles Unified a great public education,” said Board President García. “Today is a first step in working with state leaders to achieve this goal.”

UTLA and LAUSD are both expected to hold press conferences at the end of the day, and we will update this story with any new developments.

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Strike FAQ For Parents

Strike FAQ For Parents

Strike FAQ For Parents

When Will A Strike Start, and How Long Will It Last?

If Los Angeles Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles do not reach an agreement, a strike will start Monday, Jan. 14.  There is no telling how long a strike will last. The last strike was in 1989 and lasted nine days.

Will the Teachers Be On Strike At My School?

UTLA and LAUSD are still in talks, but if they don’t reach an agreement, teachers at all LAUSD neighborhood schools, magnets schools, pilot schools, dual language immersions schools and affiliated charters will go on strike. Teachers at independent public charters authorized but not operated by LAUSD will be working and will NOT be on strike, but parents may still face picket lines if the charter co-locates with a district school where teachers are striking. If your child attends a charter school, and you are not sure whether it is independent or affiliated, you can check this list.

Will Schools Be Open During A Strike?

LAUSD says all schools will be open during normal hours, meals will be served and some form of instruction will take place. Principals will be working and most likely so will some other school staff. LAUSD has hired substitute teachers and will send administrators with teaching credentials to schools. But kids may be learning in large groups in auditoriums or cafeterias. Ask your principal for your school’s plan.  

If I Keep My Kids Home During A Strike, Are Absences Excused?

Absences will be unexcused unless you can provide a note saying that your child is ill. LAUSD receives funding based on attendance so keeping your child home will mean less funding for your child’s school and less money for LAUSD to meet teacher demands. California law calls more than three unexcused absences truancy, and parents can be fined. It’s unclear how strictly truancy laws will be enforced during a strike. Some principals are signaling that kids may come to school for attendance taking at the start of the day and have parents bring them home shortly afterward without being penalized. Check with your principal. 

May I Volunteer To Help At School During A Strike?

Yes, as long as your principal approves, extended family members may volunteer. LAUSD has waived requirements for fingerprinting and TB testing during the strike but will still check parent volunteers to make sure they are not in the sex offender database.  

Will My Child Be Safe?

LAUSD says yes. However, schools will not have the normal ratio of adults to kids, and nurses will also be on strike. LAUSD has expressed concerns about the safety of some of its highest-needs kids with severe disabilities. Parents of high-needs kids are welcome to attend school with their kids, if your principal permits it. Police officers will be at every secondary school throughout the day, and officers will be at elementary schools during drop-off and pickup to help keep kids safe. 

Will Afterschool Programs Be Open?

Yes, afterschool programs will be operating. Students who participate in fee-based after-school programs on LAUSD campuses may be allowed to attend, even if they are not in school. Those in Beyond the Bell programs cannot. Please check with your principal for details.

Why Doesn’t LAUSD Just Meet UTLA’s Demands?

LAUSD says it wants to meet UTLA’s package of demands for salary increases, class size decreases and more hiring. The entire package, however, would cost billions, and unless we get more state funding, meeting the demands would lead to insolvency and a state takeover of LAUSD. Superintendent Austin Beutner and Board President Monica Garcia traveled to Sacramento Wednesday to ask state leaders for more funding to meet the demands and help avert a strike.

*This document will be updated as new information arises.

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LAUSD Makes It Easier For Parents To Volunteer During A Strike, As Date of Potential Work Stoppage Remains Uncertain

 LAUSD Makes It Easier For Parents To Volunteer During A Strike, As Date of Potential Work Stoppage Remains Uncertain

While the question of whether a strike can legally begin Thursday remains up in the air, the LAUSD Board passed a policy Tuesday to make it easier for parents, guardians and other family members to volunteer at schools during a strike and other emergencies.   

Talks between LAUSD and UTLA are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning after some movement between the two sides Monday. However, a court decided not to hear arguments Tuesday on whether a strike can begin this week, which means that any work stoppage could still be delayed until Monday if no resolution between the two sides is reached. 

Strike preparations, however, are underway, and the Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to allow family members who have been checked against a sex offender database to volunteer -- with a principal’s permission – during times of crisis, without having to get TB tested and fingerprinted, as long as they are supervised at all times by school staff. Board Member Scott Schmerelson (BD3) voted no, and George McKenna (BD1) was absent.

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More Talks Scheduled For Wednesday After LAUSD Sweetens Offer On Hiring and Class Sizes

More Talks Scheduled For Wednesday After LAUSD Sweetens Offer On Hiring and Class Sizes

LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles failed to reach an agreement during talks Monday, despite the district sweetening its offer on new hiring and class size reductions from $30 million to $105 million. The two sides will meet for more talks Wednesday, in hopes of averting a strike that UTLA has threatened to begin on Jan. 10.

The district and the union will also be in court Tuesday to argue whether UTLA has a legal right to start a strike Thursday. LAUSD claims that UTLA failed to give the proper technical 10-day written notice so if UTLA does go on strike, it might have to wait until Jan. 14.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl both attended Monday’s talks at LAUSD’s Beaudry headquarters, which Caputo-Pearl describes “diplomatic but tense at times.” Each side made some concessions.

 LAUSD’s offer went above and beyond what the neutral state-appointed fact finder recommended. Nevertheless, Caputo-Pearl called said it was “inadequate,” adding, “We don’t think there was a lot of progress made today.”

LAUSD then said in a press release that it was “extremely disappointed and frustrated that the union has turned down our offer and – once again – failed to put forth any proposal to try to resolve the issues of class size and salary.”

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Judge Rejects LAUSD Effort To Protect Kids With Special Needs During Strike, As UTLA and LAUSD Set Last-Ditch Monday Meeting

 Judge Rejects LAUSD Effort To Protect Kids With Special Needs During Strike, As UTLA and LAUSD Set Last-Ditch Monday Meeting

While confirming that a UTLA strike could make it hard for LAUSD to meet the needs of more than 60,000 disabled students, a federal judge has nevertheless rejected LAUSD’s attempt to file a preemptive complaint to stop teachers and special education services providers from going on strike Jan. 10.

If UTLA strikes, special education teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers would be unavailable to meet many of the legal requirements specified in students’ Individual Education Plans.

“The Court acknowledges that a strike could burden [LAUSD] in its ability to provide services to students,” the judge wrote in his decision. However, the Court “cannot act on mere speculation that if the strike occurs [LAUSD] will fail to meet” requirements of a 1996 class-action lawsuit settlement called the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree, which installed an independent monitor to oversee LAUSD’s compliance with kids’ IEPs.

All of the legal wrangling comes days before a last-ditch meeting between LAUSD and UTLA to attempt to avert a strike set for Thursday, three days after student return from winter break. LAUSD has offered UTLA members a 6 percent raise and $30 million toward smaller class sizes and more hiring of nurses, counselors and librarians. LAUSD has also offered to eliminate a contract provision that allows the district to unilaterally to raise class sizes and to instead create a working group to decide new class size limits.

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