Top District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral Action

David Holmquist

Not many people would recognize David Holmquist, general counsel for the LA Unified School District (pictured below). But Holmquist serves as an important role, overseeing all labor negotiations, and representing the district in over 1,000 lawsuits  – including attempts by LAUSD to recover overpayment from 600 employees and dismiss more than 120 teachers.

We spoke last Wednesday in his office on the 24th floor of LAUSD headquarters about what actions LAUSD is preparing to take unilaterally if the teacher evaluation negotiations with UTLA remain unresolved, the recent LA Times lawsuit, his role in the Ramon Cortines sexual assault allegations, the ongoing legal fallout from the Miramonte scandal, and LAUSD’s version of the infamous New York City “rubber rooms” where teachers are housed while investigations against them are pending.

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Update: Cautious Union, Sad Superintendent

There’s not really that much new to say about UTLA’s decision to scuttle LAUSD’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant (ostensibly over cost concerns) but news outlets are having a grand time dissecting it and LAUSD superintendent John Deasy seems more than willing to express his disappointment over that decision.

This Daily News story (LAUSD, other districts miss out on Race to the Top grants) has UTLA head Fletcher expressing his cost concerns:  “You’re essentially setting up a system with a lot of bureaucracy, and those pieces have to stay.” This KPCC story (LA teachers union blocks LAUSD’s Race to the Top) highlights UTLA’s argument that the grant would have cost the district too much, with a supportive quote from former board member Tokofsky. This HuffPost LA editorial (Teachers Union Just Cost Us $40 Million) takes a harsh look at the situation, blaming UTLA and CTA for a series of failures to win federal education funding in recent years.

Morning Read: Cheating Fallout

Parents Criticize Officials After Cheating Allegations Roil School
Leaders of a parent organization at Short Avenue Elementary on Tuesday criticized the school’s former principal and the Los Angeles Unified School District in the wake of alleged cheating and mistakes in administering state standardized tests by teachers. LA Times

Dan Walters: What to Do if Proposition 30 Fails?
As the political odds turn against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure, political insiders are turning their attention, however reluctantly, to the fallout should, indeed, voters reject the sales and income tax hike on Tuesday. Sac Bee (Commentary)

How Proposition 30 Can Still Win
If the November turnout is only 62 percent of registered voters, Proposition 30 will lose because that electorate will be much more like a non-presidential year electorate than what we are used to in a presidential year. Fox and Hounds

More coverage of UTLA’s refusal to sign off on the Race to the Top application: CBSABCWitness LA and KPCC

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Report: CA Teachers 6th Most Powerful

The California Teachers Association is the 6th most powerful state teachers union in the nation, according to a new report from a pair of East Coast nonprofits. California teachers are #1 in terms of scope of bargaining and perceived influence, according to the state profile (PDF here), and #18 and #20 in its level of political involvement and its resource management.

“California has the most union-friendly bargaining laws in the nation,” according to the report.  “The state requires collective bargaining in education, lets its unions automatically deduct agency fees from non-member teachers, and permits teacher strikes. Further, of the twenty-one items examined in this metric, California mandates that eleven are bargained (only Nevada requires more). The remaining ten provisions are implicitly within the scope of bargaining, as state law is silent on them.”

Written by a New York City advocacy group and a Washington DC think tank, the new report ranks state teachers union according to membership, revenues, scope of bargaining, and other measures of influence. While some union officials have mocked the report’s findings, union watchdog Mike Antonucci describes it as extremely useful.

Union Head Praises Insurgent Group

It was intriguing to see UTLA president Warren Fletcher sitting at the table with Jordan Henry, co-founder of NewTLA, at last night’s Los Angeles Education Partnership roundtable event titled “Do Unions Drive or Restrain Student Success?”

Sitting at the table, left to right: NewTLA cofounder Jordan Henry, the Planning Report’s David Abel, and UTLA president Warren Fletcher.

A caucus of teachers frequently at odds with UTLA leadership, NewTLA is currently encouraging members to nominate themselves for union leadership positions at their schools.  And yet, Fletcher complimented Jordan on his role within the union:  “UTLA has a sterling record of being ahead of the curve in terms of reform. Though we’re not always ahead of the curve. That’s why it’s important that Jordan is part of the discussion.”

Union Unmoved by Hurricane Extension

When the United States Department of Education announced yesterday that the deadline for Race to the Top applications was being been pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy, a Washington, DC trade publication called Education Week wondered whether the delay might give LAUSD more time to negotiate with UTLA for a chance at as much as $40 million.

But, when LA School Report called in to check with LAUSD about this yesterday afternoon, Superintendent John Deasy’s response was that the extension didn’t matter. “Negotiations have ended,” Deasy told LA School Report. “UTLA won’t be a partner on this.”

Officially, the union’s opposition to the grant application isn’t related to teacher evaluations.  UTLA President Warren Fletcher told LA School Report that the decision came from the belief that the grant would be worth less than the cost to comply with.

Previous posts: Still No Race to the Top DealUnion Blocks $40M Grant PlanBig Interest In “Race” Money

Morning Read: Still No Race to the Top Deal

LAUSD, Other Districts Miss Out on Race to the Top Grants as Unions Won’t Sign Applications
The two sides resumed informal discussions on Monday after the deadline was extended because of Hurricane Sandy, but still couldn’t reach an agreement.  Daily News

See also the LA Times

Gov. Jerry Brown Has Yet to Pick a Central Prop. 30 Sales Pitch
Mixed messages about Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative underscore his struggle pitching Prop. 30 to voters and have provided fodder for foes. LA Times

Credit Rating for California School Districts Could be Downgraded if Props 30 & 38 Fail
Moody’s Investors Service says the forecast for California school districts is dire, and many are at risk of having their credit rating downgraded if both ballot measures fail. KPCC

Texas, California Do Compete – in Funding Race to the Bottom
In this state, where only 25 percent of schoolchildren are non-Hispanic whites, but 66 percent of likely voters are, it’s not hard to understand why voters are so resistant to tax increases even for public education. Ed Source

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Principals Cancel Deasy Meetings*

Dr. Judith Perez, President of AALA

The administrators’ association has been repeatedly complaining to the school district about administrators’ workload (see: Principals: Too Many Plans). But the AALA hasn’t been getting much time or attention from LAUSD Superintendent Deasy who, according to the October 22  newsletter, says he’s too focused on Props 30 and 38 to meet with them.

“Finding resources to help and committing them before we know if we might go bankrupt seems like irresponsible leadership NOT disrespectful behavior towards you or any of our fantastic principals,” emailed Deasy, according to the newsletter. In response, the AALA has cancelled its scheduled meetings with Deasy.

*The original version of this post incorrectly described Deasy as having canceled meetings with the principals when it was actually the other way around.

Chart: Life Without Prop. 30

This analysis published in the Daily News points out that the $6 billion in cuts that the Governor has threatened if Prop. 30 doesn’t pass are only “cuts” because they were pre-built into the budget by over-optimistic politicians and could be addressed through other means than solely cutting 15-20 days of school as has been reported, and that school funding (red line in this chart) would still rise in future years thanks to economic growth (just not as much or as quickly as under Prop. 30).

Morning Read: Union Blocks $40M Grant Plan

Teachers Union Refuses to Sign Off on LAUSD Plan for Race to the Top Grant
The Los Angeles teachers union has refused to sign off on Los Angeles Unified’s bid for a prestigious Race to the Top grant, costing the district a shot at winning $40 million in federal money, sources said Saturday. Daily News

Measuring the Worth of a Teacher?
L.A. Unified School District’s Academic Growth Over Time measurement system, based on students’ progress on standardized tests, spurs debate over fairness, accuracy. LA Times

State Strips 23 Schools of API Rankings for Cheating
Teachers helped students correct mistakes on standardized tests, prepared them with actual test questions or left instructional posters displayed in the classroom during testing, according to school district reports. LA Times

Proposition 30 Analysis: Does California Need More Tax Money?
Even if the measure fails, funding for schools is expected to increase 21 percent from 2012 to 2015 because of economic growth. The $6 billion trigger-cut figure stems from the fact that he and the Legislature started the budget year by assuming that Proposition 30 would pass. Daily News

Brown Brings Prop. 30 Campaign to L.A.’s Grand Central Market
Fighting for support for his tax-hike initiative to help fund education, Gov. Jerry Brown aims his message at Latinos. LA Times

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Events: Board Member Martinez to Talk About Props

LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez

LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez is hosting a town hall meeting in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday, October 27 to educate parents and community members about how propositions on the upcoming election ballot will affect LA schools.

Martinez will speak along with LAUSD’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Megan Reillyhas, about the drastic budget cuts that will be triggered if prop 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure, doesn’t pass on November 6.

Representatives for props 30, 32, and 38 will also speak and take questions from parents about the impact of their props on LAUSD.

The workshop will be held at Valley Region Middle School #3 in Sun Valley from 10 a.m. to noon.

Find the full event details here.

Zimmer Ignores Reform “Orthodoxy”

A new article in The American Prospect magazine traces Teach For America’s efforts to support its former teachers who want to run for public office (and who generally adhere to a common set of education priorities including charter schools, teacher effectiveness, test-based school accountability. The article includes a link to LA School Report’s recent interview with LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer, one of few such alumni who has publicly opposed what he describes as “the TFA orthodoxy.” (See: Teach for America’s Deep Bench).

Behind the Scenes: Campaign Consultants

There are two likely opponents running against Steve Zimmer – Jeneen Robinson and Kate Anderson, a handful of candidates who have already filed official papers to run against Monica Garcia, and rumors but no names yet for the spot being vacated by the departing Nury Martinez.

But these incumbents and their opponents won’t be doing all the campaign planning, strategy, and media buying on their own – especially when it comes to running the IE (independent expenditure) committees through which much of the campaign-related spending will pass. Three of the city’s best-paid Democratic political consultants – Parke SkeltonJohn Shallman, and Doug Herman – were closely involved in the 2011 races and, once the November elections are done, may be involved again.

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Mixed News for Charters

2012 Conference of the National Association of Charter School Organizers

There’s a big City Hall event this morning hosted by the California Charter Schools Association. There are now nearly 1,100 charters in the state, and LA added 40 new ones this year alone. (See AP story: California Sees Record Number of New Charter Schools). It’s the 20th anniversary of the charter school concept — semi-autonomous public schools with more budget and hiring flexibility than district schools. But all’s not sunshine and unicorns for the charter movement.   Continue reading

Morning Read: Healthy Food, Ballot Fights

Board Member Nury Martinez Wants Schools to Serve Healthier Food
Los Angeles Unified board member Nury Martinez has introduced a resolution promoting the school district’s efforts to ensure that its 700,000 students have access to healthful food that is locally grown with sound environmental practices. Daily News

Charles Munger Drops Another $13 Million Into Ballot Measure Fights
Wealthy heir Charles Munger Jr. has ponied up another $13 million to kill off Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increase and to pass the anti-union Proposition 32, according to new campaign finance reports. Sac Bee

College Students to Dress Like Zombies and March for Prop. 30 in ‘The Walking Debt’
California Community College students are planning to dress up like zombies Friday afternoon and take part in “The Walking Debt” — a march from L.A. City Hall to the governor’s Downtown office in support of Prop. 30 and education funding. KPCC

L.A. City Council Celebrates Charter School Leaders
The Los Angeles City Council is taking time out from its Friday meeting to praise local charter school advocates as California’s charter school law turns 20 years old. Los Angeles Councilwoman, and mayoral candidate, Jan Perry has prepared a proclamation for L.A.’s charter school leaders. KPCC

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Local Do-Gooder Wins Journal Award

Last week, the Wall Street Journal Magazine gave out its innovator awards, and among the recipients was Eric Eisner (pictured).

Eric Eisner in a 2011 Vanity Fair layout

Eisner has a program called Young Eisner Scholars and has been written up before in the Huffington Post & Vanity Fair.

According to the press release (below), Eisner was recognized by the WSJ Magazine for “his work recruiting, tutoring and mentoring the brightest kids from L.A.’s roughest schools and helping them feel a positive drive toward their futures.”

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Public School Choice 4.0

The deadline for the fourth round of school proposals for Public School Choice (PSC) is due next week, on October 31.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has identified 13 low-performing schools to participate in what is called PSC 4.0.  This is a decrease from the previous year, when 33 schools were part of the process.

Only in-district planning teams, made up of union-certified current or former LAUSD employees, are allowed to compete to manage a school turnaround.

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Morning Read: Prop. 30 Losing Support

Support Plunges for Prop. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Tax Initiative
Only 46% of registered voters now support Prop. 30, a drop of 9 percentage points over the last month, and 42% oppose it. LA Times

See also Ed Source

Molly Munger’s Prop. 38 Is Spoiling Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30. She’s Not Sorry.
Both proposals could fail, leaving Brown and the Legislature to grapple with huge budget cuts they’ve threatened to make to schools and other government programs. LA Weekly

L.A. Schools Chief Urges Union Cooperation on Federal Funds
The union fears the grant won’t cover all the costs of implementing the district’s proposal. LA Times

See also LA Daily News and Ama Nyamekye’s editorial in the Huffington Post

LAUSD Loses Appeal in Settlement of Teacher-Layoff Lawsuit
The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to overturn an appellate court ruling invalidating a landmark settlement that would have exempted dozens of struggling Los Angeles Unified schools from seniority-based layoffs. Daily News

Innovation at L.A. and Long Beach School Districts May Pave Way for Others
The innovative actions by eight school districts — including LAUSD and LBUSD — who have come together to form a consortium that plans to seek federal funds to be targeted toward students is encouraging. Daily News (editorial)

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