Teachers union leaders updating members on strike potential

UTLA Rally Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking LAUSD

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking to union members

No matter the state of contract negotiations between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, instructors are becoming more familiar with the possibility of a strike.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said in an interview today union officials are busy organizing parents, sending out negotiation updates and preparing school sites for the possibility that the district and the union reach an impasse in bargaining.

“I’m very confident we can organize ourselves to be a force,” he said, a reference to developing unity among union members. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts so far.”

Negotiators for the district and union have met several times to exchange ideas. So far, the union has rejected each of the district’s first two offers, calling the latest one “a non-starter.” The district has offered a 2 percent payment to teachers for last year, a 2 percent salary increase for each of the next two years and a 2.5 percent increase in a third year. The out years are predicated on district revenues.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Lawsuit filed in New York takes after Vergara ruling

EdWeekVia Edweek | by Stephen Sawchuck

A second lawsuit challenging New York laws governing teacher tenure, layoffs, and dismissals has been filed on behalf of seven schoolchildren in the state.

The suit, modeled on the successful Vergara v. California lawsuit in California, argues that those protections are depriving pupils of their constitutional right in New York to a “sound basic education” because they make it nearly impossible to fire an ineffective or incompetent teacher.

Filed in the state Supreme Court, in the county of Albany, Wright v. New York names as defendants the state; the Board of Regents, which oversees elementary and secondary education; the chairman of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch; and state education Commissioner John King. It is being spearheaded by the Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit set up by Campbell Brown, a former news anchor.

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Zimmer, Kayser back McKenna; Villaraigosa in for Johnson

Steve Zimmer George McKenna

Steve Zimmer, with George McKenna to his right.

Endorsements in the District 1 school board race continued to pile up today as two LA Unified board members jumped on the George McKenna bandwagon, and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in for Alex Johnson.

Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser appeared at a news conference outside City Hall this morning to offer their strong support for McKenna, the former administrator who won the June primary.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement through a campaign release from Johnson, the education aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who finished second.

The candidates are now facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff election.

Calling McKenna “one of the most esteemed public educators in recent LA history,” Zimmer said he was disturbed at campaign mailers from Johnson that called into question McKenna’s effectiveness as an administrator.

“I couldn’t stand idly by and let it happen,” he told LA School Report at the gathering. “So I’m getting involved.”

Kayser said he, too, was motivated by the fliers, saying, “I was going to stay out of the campaign. Then I saw the fliers sent out. attacking him. I felt I can’t stand back.”

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Morning Read: LAUSD, teachers at odds over contract talks

Teachers union, LAUSD at odds over bargaining tactics
With just two weeks before school starts, union leaders representing 35,000 teachers have declined Los Angeles Unified’s offer to conduct contract talks on a daily basis. The two sides are divided by about $280 million per year in pay increases and other issues. LA Daily News

Report says new teachers face ‘bumpy path’
A new report concludes that California’s mentoring program for novice teachers, once a national model, has deteriorated due to lack of funding and district commitment, and provides little help for the many new teachers who enter the profession as permanent substitutes or temporary hires. EdSource

California joins states urging student-led voter drives
Seventeen-year-old Jonah Pelter says registering to vote is not something he thinks about a lot, and he’s never been exposed to any kind of on-campus voter registration event in his three years of high school. S&I Cabinet Report

Summer camp disparities widen achievement gap
The stark contrast between the summer activities of the Bay Area’s have and have-not children not only highlights ethnic and class differences but also distinguishes who is likely to succeed — and who may struggle in school and later in life. San Jose Mercury News

Teaching Teaching
Commentary: I’m starting to wonder if we’ve entered some kind of golden age of books about education. First came Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed,” about the importance of developing noncognitive skills in students. It was published in September 2012. NY Times

Foster youth gain support from UCLA summer program

Edsource logoVia Edsource | by Susan Frey

Instability — multiple homes and multiple schools — is one of the biggest obstacles to academic success for foster children. But about two dozen high school students in foster care in Southern California are benefiting from one constant in their lives: a program each summer at UCLA aimed at keeping them on track academically and preparing them for college.

The First Star Academy is a pilot program for foster youth run by First Star, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on helping abused and neglected children. For the past four years, the First Star Academy has brought the foster students to the UCLA campus each summer and meets with the students one Saturday each month during the school year.

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LAUSD charter school growth faster pace than in state, nation


Click table to view larger image

At the start of the new school year in two weeks, LA Unified will have almost 200 more charter schools than it did a decade ago. 

The growth reflects a more swift expansion than national and statewide trends in school choice options. 

Since 2004, charter schools in LA Unified have increased nearly four times, to 265 from 68, while the number of charter schools in California has risen by half, and across the country the number has doubled, to 6,000 from 3,000.  

“When you look at the numbers you can clearly see that LAUSD is extremely hospitable to charter school operators,” board member Steve Zimmer told LA School Report. “This is not a district that makes it hard for parents to find an alternative to their local public schools.”

The latest numbers, provided by the district’s Charter School Division, show that the overwhelming majority of charter schools that will operate this year — 212 — are “independent,” which means they are run by an entity separate and independent of LAUSD in almost all respects, including finances. Such schools are not covered by the district’s labor contracts. 

“Affiliated” schools, of which there will be 53 throughout the district, function under the auspices of the LAUSD Board of Education and are usually public school conversions. The district typically administers all funding programs for for these schools and employees are covered by union contracts. 

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Johnson holding money lead over McKenna; Vladovic has donors

Money race Alex Johnson George McKenna LAUSDNotes along the campaign trail:

In the money race for the open District 1 board seat, Alex Johnson continues to hold an overall lead over George McKenna, according to the City’s Ethics Commission

Through last week, Johnson had raised $47,646 to $6,450 for McKenna, an 8-to-1 ratio that hasn’t budged in weeks. In PAC money spent on the campaign’s behalf, Johnson supporters have written checks for $370,058, to $65,119 for McKenna.

The runoff election is now 16 days away, on Aug. 12, the same day school opens.

It’s entirely clear by now where all the support is coming from. Johnson has won the favor of reform groups, including the PAC affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association, which has spent $77,378, and a new PAC called Great Public Schools, which has spent $38,002 and includes lots of reformed-minded donors who support Superintendent John Deasy.

While that kind of support would appear to make Johnson sympathetic to board measures favorable to charter groups, he might be equally sympathetic to positions favored by his boss, Mark Ridley-Thomas. The largest amount spent on Johnson’s behalf, $245,754, comes from a voter registration and education group that Thomas founded 12 years ago, called the African American Voter Registration, Education & Participation Project (AAVREP).

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Morning Read: Lawsuit looms over California PE classes

California schools face lawsuit over physical education classes
Thousands of elementary school teachers have been asked this summer to hold on to their lesson plans as 37 school districts throughout the state seek to show that they are providing students with required exercise. LA Times

The LAUSD board election matters; voters should turn out
Commentary: The bottom line? The next board member for the district will represent roughly 1 million people on questions essential to the future of this region, and yet probably will have garnered the support of only about 20,000 people. LA Times

America’s Classist Education System
Commentary: America’s education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. Huffington Post

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. NY Times

Breaking News: Judge allows Magnolia charters to remain open

Ruling Magnolia LAUSD* UPDATED

A California Superior Court judge today ruled that two Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) charters can remain open, blocking LA Unified’s effort to shut them down over financial concerns.

The decision by Judge Luis A. Lavin enables Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms and Magnolia Science Academy 7 in Van Nuys to welcome students back next month as scheduled. And they can continue to operate as if their charters had been renewed by the district.

Lavin’s ruling hinged on the language of the conditional approval as it was articulated at a March district school board meeting, when the members voted to renew the charters, pending a review of the schools’ finances.

Records from the meeting indicate that the school board intended to review a staff investigation into the schools’ financial status, he wrote. But the decision to deny the renewals was based on staff findings of financial malfeasance, not the Board’s vote to renew or deny the schools’ charters, based on the staff report.

The judge effectively ruled that the district did not act properly in acting on a staff recommendation, rather than a Board review.

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Data now available on teacher pay, but not for LA Unified

Teacher pay transperant californiaIt just became easier to find out how much your teacher is paid — unless, that is, the teachers works in LA Unified.

A California non-profit, the California Policy Center, made available this week pay and pension data of individual employees from 653 school districts around the state in a searchable database. That adds to the information it had already compiled for other public employees around the state.

But state’s largest district, LAUSD, has stalled in providing information. According to Robert Fellner, research fellow with the Center, LA Unified is “the only agency in the state of California that we encountered in this process to issue a flat out denial. ”

More recently, the district told the center that the information would be available at a cost, Fellner says, and a lawsuit is possible. “Right now,” he said, “we are considering our legal options.”

The organization filed pubic record requests with the state and local agencies earlier this year, and Fellner said most agencies have been responsive. Another 500 school districts are in various stages of complying.

According to a story in the LA Times, the California Teachers Association supports the release of salary information, but does not support linking salaries to individual teachers.

That data for LAUSD had been released once before in 2008, linking salary to employees names, and made available by the LA Daily News.

LAUSD is getting back to us with a response.

A bigger team for teachers union but no agreement in sight

Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA contract negotiations LAUSDThe latest LA Unified-UTLA bargaining session featured a change in tactics by the union but nothing close to an agreement.

The union brought all seven officers into negotiations yesterday, signaling a shift to what it calls “big bargaining.” And it’s likely to get bigger: The union said in a statement future bargaining sessions would include rank-and-file members as part of the bargaining team and parents and academics as observers.

Teacher unions in other cities, like Chicago and St. Paul, have used the tactic, ostensibly to demonstrate strength, unity and determination, in UTLA’s case, perhaps as prelude to a strike. For UTLA, the statement said, the idea is to put a focus on “smaller class sizes, full staffing, salary restoration and raises for educators, who have gone seven years without a raise, took furlough days and made other sacrifices during the recession years.”

“We know more money is coming into the district every year and there is no reason to maintain large class sizes,” the statement said. “The district wants us to be quiet on the class size issue. We will not. Nor will we drop our demand for fully staffed schools that provide social-emotional support for students and offer the arts and other electives that our students deserve.”

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on the change.

What it might achieve is unclear. The union is clearly unsatisfied with the district’s latest contract offer — a 2 percent bonus for last year, 2 percent salary increases for the coming year and the next and a 2 1/2 percent raise for the year after that, with the second two years conditional of the district’s financial situation.

The union has called that offer a “non-starter” and yesterday asked district negotiators “to explain their numbers in formulating the most recent offer.” The union is demanding a 17.6 percent salary increase over an undetermined number of years.

“In many ways, their offer represents a throwback to bad ideas the district had in past years that did not work,” Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in the statement.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for August 6th; a larger table may be necessary.

Previous Posts: LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Morning Read: English learner lawsuit gains support from Feds

Feds back English learner lawsuit against state
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has found an ally in the U.S. Department of Justice for its lawsuit charging that the state abdicated its obligation to ensure all students classified as English learners get extra instructional services to become fluent in English. EdSource

New tool for navigating federal privacy laws
Hoping to help districts prevent such alarming developments and apply best practices in educational technology, the Washington, D.C. based Consortium for School Networking has released two new resources to help school systems avoid violations of student privacy and vulnerabilities to their data systems. S&I Cabinet Report

Can a 4-year-old learn from online preschool?
Two new companies for online preschool are ABC Mouse and CHALK preschool online. Neither company was willing to share exact metrics on home-use of its online products, but both said their numbers are in the tens of thousands – and growing daily. KPCC

Judge tentatively allows 2 charter schools to keep operating
Two charter schools ordered shut down by L.A. Unified amid questions over their financial management will be allowed to continue operating for now, according to a tentative ruling made public Thursday. LA Times

JUST IN: Court adjourns with no decision on Magnolia charters

Magnolia Charter School Hearing LAUSD

A superior court judge adjourned for the day without ruling whether he would keep open two Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) charters for the start of the school year next month.

After hearing arguments from lawyers for LA Unified, which wants to shut them down, and from Magnolia lawyers, arguing to keep them open, Judge Luis Lavin said he would rule on the question by the end of the day tomorrow.

But during the hearing Lavin made it clear he’s leaning toward granting MPS a temporary injunction. He was emphatic about MPS’s right to due process and agreed with the charter school’s claim that LA Unified denied the charter organization the ability to address the issues uncovered in a forensic audit of the nonprofit’s finances. 

Lavin said district should have presented its findings to the LA Unified school board and allowed the schools’ communities to express themselves in a public hearing.

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LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract

LAUSD Teachers' salaries

Negotiators for LA Unified and its teachers union, UTLA, had planned to meet today to discuss a new contract for teachers, based on the district’s latest offer. The district described it as an improvement over the initial offer, but days before the offer was officially made, the union dismissed it as a “non-starter” and continued the threat of a strike. Meanwhile, courtesy of the LA Daily News, here’s a look at the rate of salary increase for LA Unified teachers over the last 10 years.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union; UTLA could start another academic year without a contract

Magnolia Charter troubles in LAUSD highlight larger concerns

Magnolia Charter Schools governance LAUSDTroubles encountered by the charter school operator, Magnolia Public Schools (MPS), at two of its eight charters in the LA Unified School District highlight a murky governance issue that legislatures in California and elsewhere have been slow to address.

Should a parent company operate its charter school network as a single entity, as MPS does with its 11 California charters? Or should each school be run independently, with separate budgets and governance?

LA Unified last month closed two MPS schools, saying financial problems at the parent company rose to the “level of fiscal mismanagement.”  But by scrutinizing the financial health of the overall charter management organization, the district has tread into uncharted territory for an authorizer.

“This is an emerging issue, and my guess is a lot of legislatures will have to address this in the near future,” says Kathy Christie of the Education Commission of the States, which compiles research on charter school practices nationally.

The school closures followed a District audit that not only examined Magnolia Science Academy 6 and Academy 7, both high-performing schools, but also MPS as the parent group. The audit found among other things that MPS met the IRS definition of being “insolvent” as of June 2013, that it owed millions of dollars to the schools it oversees and that it transferred money between schools. It also found that it paid millions of dollars to a third party non-profit, Accord, for educational services with little accountability.

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Report: Poor induction programs lead to high teacher turnover


Teachers LAUSDVia S&I Cabinet Report | By Alisha Kirby

Much of the disproportionately high rate of teacher turnover in hard-to-staff schools serving high-poverty students can be attributed to a lack of quality induction programs for beginning teachers, according to guidance released earlier this month.

Roughly half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year – attrition that costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually – with 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leaving the profession after five years, according to research cited in On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers.

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Morning Read: Judges rule against LAT on teacher IDs

Judges rule against letting public see LAUSD teachers’ performance
The public has no right to know the names of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers in connection with their job performance ratings, according to a court ruling issued Wednesday. LA Times

Gov. Jerry Brown resists unzipping school construction wallet
Commentary: There’s a school construction bond bill that has sailed through the Assembly and five committees with 122 “yes” votes — Democrat and Republican — and not a single “no.” But its chances of passing the Senate and making it to the November state ballot seem slim. LA Times

LAUSD, teachers’ union divided by pay raises, class sizes
Los Angeles Unified administrators and teacher union leaders will enter their first round of contract negotiations this afternoon divided by roughly $280 million per year for pay raises and even further apart on matters that directly affect classrooms. LA Daily News

Unions put teachers on streets — for votes
Teachers unions are struggling to protect their political clout, but as the midterm elections approach, they’re fighting back with their most popular asset: the teachers themselves. Politico

LA schools cutting budget for mental health for special ed students
Next school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District is cutting the budget for psychiatric social workers for special education students by 15 percent, raising fears among the special ed social workers that their numbers will be reduced. KPCC

Magnolia going into court to keep 2 of its charters open

Magnolia Charter School playground LAUSD

Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) is going into a Los Angeles superior court tomorrow to ask a judge to keep open two of its schools that LA Unified wants to close.

The district denied the renewal applications for Magnolia Science Academies 6 and 7 after an independent audit determined that MPS is insolvent. The audit uncovered a number of fiscal management violations.  

The hearing, before Judge Luis Lavin, involves Magnolia’s request for a preliminary injunction; lawyers for Magnolia are not seeking a decision on the merits of the District’s claims. Magnolia is asking the court to allow it to continue to operate pending the outcome of the case.

The court has scheduled an Oct. 14 hearing to consider setting a date for trial.

Meanwhile, the California Charter Schools Association says Magnolia parents are planning to protest at the courthouse tomorrow morning in support of keeping the schools open. Tomorrow’s hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Previous Posts: Magnolia charter troubles having an impact beyond LA Unified; JUST IN: LAUSD expands probe into Magnolia charter schools; ‘Fiscal mismanagement’ cited in closing 2 Magnolia charters

CWC charter finds yet another new home, at least for a year

St Joan of Arc School Los Angeles LAUSD

St Joan of Arc school, CWC’s new home


Citizens of the World Mar Vista has a new new home.

The charter school, which was forced to move from its co-location site at Stoner Elementary School after a tumultuous year, has turned down LA Unified’s most recent offer for classroom space and is moving onto a Catholic school campus. 

CWC finalized a one-year deal with St. Joan of Arc in West Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Archdiocese last week — it will remain an LA Unified charter school. 

“We are thrilled that we found a place where we can accommodate all of our students in one location,” Jana Reed, Chief of Schools for CWC Charter Schools, told LA School Report

In June, CWC officials agreed to split the K – 3 school between two district campuses in Westchester — Loyola Village and Kenwood Elementary — a situation Reed described as “far from ideal.” So CWC’s “very active parents” continued the search for an alternative school site. 

It was one of them who found the church property, formerly a private school that has gone largely unused for several years. 

“Our parents are really committed so they just kept looking,” Reed said. “We really didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.”

CWC’s 220 students will have the new campus all to themselves. Reed says it will be much more expensive to operate the school at a non-LAUSD site.

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Freedom Schools strengthen, empower LA Unified students

Freedom Schools lausd

17-year-old Dorsey High School senior Christian Moton, second from right, participates in a group discussion about a book on Nelson Mandela

Every morning for the last six weeks, Dorsey High School senior Christian Moton has been taking part in a highly charged and energetic morning ceremony when he sings, chants and cheers.

“They host Harambee here. Harambee really brings out people’s spirit,” Moton told LA School Report.

The daily Harambee, which means “all pull together” in Swahili, is part of a Children’s Defense Fund program called Freedom Schools, an educational curriculum that helps teach a love for reading and writing and builds self esteem through positive reinforcement.

“I think it’s great,” Moton said. “It’s a way for kids like me who grew up and raised in South LA, for us to get away from it for a good while and learn things that we don’t get to learn.”

Organized by the Community Coalition, a group that works towards improving south LA neighborhoods, the program serves nearly 120 African American and Latino youth from elementary, middle and high schools, mostly from LA Unified. The coalition has been running the program for the last four years.

“It’s all about encouraging them to build their critical thinking skills to give their opinion and really preparing them to engage in the classroom the way most of us don’t learn until we get to college,” Sandra Hamada, director of Youth Programs at the Community Coalition told LA School Report.

During the seven-week summer program, which has been expanding on the West Coast, students gather in groups and read for three hours a day. They also sing and discuss the book’s meaning, while at the same time gaining a sense of self worth.

“We read out loud here and it helps because I know later in life, in college, that I’m going to have to read aloud in groups and I know this is going to prepare me for it,” Moton said.

And thanks to the program’s high impact curriculum, Moton says he has grown more confident and has developed skills that will help him succeed in life.

“It built up my leadership skills,” he said. “I can speak in crowds now. I’m not afraid to express my opinion within groups or with people who are above me in power rank.”