Union President Likely Faces 2014 Challengers
Hillel Aron | June 13, 2013
Warren Fletcher’s three-year term as UTLA President is heading into its last year, and while the teachers union election is a long way off it seems likely that he will face a challenger or two.
One of the potential challengers is a teacher activist from Crenshaw High school. The other is a current UTLA Vice President.
Depending on how it turns out, the election could be seen as a referendum on how successful Fletcher has been at bridging the gap between pragmatists and hard-liners within the union.
Fletcher is expected to run for reelection, although filing doesn’t officially open until December and the election schedule has not been set.
It is not uncommon for a union head to be challenged for re-election.
One teacher widely rumored to be considering a run against Fletcher is Alex Caputo-Pearl, a history teacher at the beleaguered Crenshaw High School.
Caputo-Pearl is a member of the UTLA Board of Directors, as well as the Progressive Educators for Action, or PEAC, a caucus within the union whose platform includes a call to end “the growth of corporate charter schools” and “[t]he use of standardized testing to determine students’ futures.”
Caputo-Pearl was one of the architects of the Initiative for the Schools LA Students Deserve, a resolution that called for UTLA to adopt a more aggressive approach toward advocacy. Speaking to LA School Report at the time, he called the initiative “an implicit and explicit critique” of the union.
“Current UTLA leadership has basically tried to deal with things in an overwhelmingly defensive and reactive way, taking things issue by issue,” said Caputo. “We don’t think that’s a strategy that’s going to help build quality schools.”
Caputo-Pearl did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether he was running or not.
Also rumored to be mulling a run is UTLA Secondary Vice President Gregg Solkovits (pictured, left).
Now in his second term, Solkovits will be termed out next year under union bylaws that limit officers to two consecutive terms, each lasting three years.
Solkovits is a somewhat controversial figure within UTLA.
While the union endorsed Eric Garcetti for Mayor, Solkovits spoke out against Garcetti and an LA County Federation of Labor meeting. When the incident was reported by LA Weekly‘s Gene Maddaus, some within the union were calling for Solkovits to resign.
Solkovits got himself into hot water again a month later when the LA Times‘s Howard Blume reported that rumors were flying about a deal cut between Solkovits and School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez.
“According to people with knowledge of the matter,” Blume wrote, “Solkovits has said that Sanchez, if he wins, would let United Teachers Los Angeles choose his chief of staff.”
Both Solkovits and Sanchez vehemently denied any such arrangement.
Asked about his plans, Solkovits told LA School Report he hasn’t decided yet.
“I have not made a decision on whether or not I am going to run for ANY UTLA office,” said Soklovits in an email. “I was an English and Social Studies teacher at James Monroe High for 28+ years and miss it every day.”
Fletcher’s allies note that the union is in pretty good shape.
There were no Reduction in Force notices (often called RIFs or pink slips) handed down this year, the school year was restored to its full 180 days and a UTLA-backed resolution to hire more teachers is expected to pass.
Fletcher outflanked critics by getting behind the PEAC Initiative, which passed overwhelmingly.
The election of teacher Monica Ratliff to the School Board was arguably a huge win for UTLA under Fletcher, as was the successful re-election of Board member Steve Zimmer.
Previous posts: Union President Volunteers for Pay Cut; Teachers Vote Against Deasy, For More Teachers; Rumors Swirl Around Sanchez Staff Possibilities; UTLA Official Kneecaps Mayoral Candidate Garcetti; April Vote Will Highlight Union Factions