Reformers Split From Labor – Again

Former Democratic state legislator Gloria Romero isn’t the only education reformer who’s taken a position that’s being described as anti-labor. (See: Proposition 32 Divides California’s Education Reformers Huffington Post.) 

Sacramento-based StudentsFirst (headed by Michelle Rhee) has given $500,000 to oppose Proposal 2, a Michigan state constitutional amendment codifying collective bargaining rights that has been backed by labor groups, according to Michigan Live. (StudentsFirst PAC donates $500,000 to campaign against union-backed Proposal 2.)

These kinds of splits between Democrat-affiliated education reform groups, elected officials, and teachers unions are still relatively few, but can no longer be considered rare.  Other examples include Mayor Villaraigosa’s support for the parent trigger and President Obama’s refusal to support the striking teachers in Chicago.

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.

Mike Antonucci: Follow the Money

You’ve probably never heard of Mike Antonucci, but you might be glad — or angry — that there’s someone like him around. Described by Education Week as “the nation’s leading observer — and critic — of the two national teachers’ unions and their affiliates,” Antonucci writes an insider blog called Education Intelligence Agency that tracks teachers union revenues, membership, campaign spending, and the occasional scandal.

On the strength of his research, he’s been published in the Wall Street JournalEducation Next, and quoted as an expert in a long list of mainstream publications.  (Even when he’s not quoted by name, you can be reasonably sure that a reporter writing about union spending spent heaps of time talking to Antonucci.)

Not surprisingly, what Antonucci has to say isn’t always uplifting:  “At the rate we are going, California will soon consist solely of public employee unions, politicians, industries that service ballot initiative campaigns, and Disneyland,” he wrote in a recent blog post (see California Unions Hate All Hedge Fund Managers… Almost).

Read below for some of Antonucci’s thoughts about how to track union (and others’) spending on campaigns and candidates, and whether LA’s relatively stringent disclosure rules really capture the full extent of what’s being spent to help union candidates win elections.  Spoiler alert — he doesn’t.

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Democratic Education Advocates Split Over Prop. 32

“I think it’s a huge blow to the [Democrats for Education] brand,” says Green Dot Public Charter Schools founder Steve Barr in this new Huffington Post story about the controversial endorsement of Prop. 32 by Gloria Romero, former state legislator and current head of Democrats For Education Reform California.  “I don’t want to have much to do with an organization with ‘Democrat’ in its name that’s in bed with the Koch brothers and Karl Rove.”

Morning Read: Zimmer Withdraws Evaluation Plan

LAUSD Board’s Martinez Wants To Restore Arts Funding In Schools
She also wants a commitment to make arts a component of the new Common Core curriculum, integrating skills like drama, drawing and dance into the teaching of math, English and science. The national standards are set to take effect in Fall 2014, and the district is slowly phasing in the lessons. Daily News

Portrait In Numbers Of LAUSD’s Decline In Arts Education
In the last three years, Los Angeles Unified has had to cut nearly $1.5 billion from its annual operating budget, which is now roughly $6 billion. “Arts education is one of the most impacted components of LAUSD instruction as a result,” according to the district. KPCC

Teacher evaluation resolution pulled from LAUSD agenda
School board member Steve Zimmer has pulled his controversial resolution on teacher evaluations from Tuesday’s board agenda because of concerns it could interfere with sensitive negotiations between the district and its teachers’ union. Daily News

Schools Urged To Use Up Technology Vouchers
About $66 million, including $10 million for LAUSD, remains from a state antitrust settlement with Microsoft, and officials want districts to use the vouchers before they expire during 2013. LA Times

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Video: Parents Urge Funding Increase

There are some fun parts to this novelty video put together by some filmmaker parents at LAUSD’s Aldama Elementary, including the chorus (“Our budget’s been cut, school’s hitting the skids, We’re coming for you, and we’re bringing our kids.”)

Obviously, these parents want voters to support increased funding for schools proposed in some of next month’s propositions.  Click here to watch it again or read the lyrics.

Education-Related Ballot Measures: An Update

A new Los Angeles Times / USC poll shows support for Governor Jerry Brown’s Prop 30 ballot initiative – which would temporarily raise income tax on high earners – has slipped to 54%, down 10 points from March. Despite the erosion, Democratic voters still overwhelmingly favor it, 69-20%.  Meanwhile, Molly Munger’s competing tax measure, Prop 38, has the support of only 34% of voters.

This seems a good time for an update on the three initiatives that will have the biggest impact on LAUSD and public education in California: Propositions 30, 32 and 38. The expenditure data is from a nice interactive feature on the Los Angeles Times website.

Proposition 30
The initiative, being pushed by Governor Jerry Brown, would temporarily raise income taxes on those making more than $250,000 (for seven years) and increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent (for four years). The money would allow the state to avoid automatic “trigger cuts” – which were designed by Brown himself – that would fall mostly on public education, to the tune of $6 billion. Detractors say this measure won’t result in more money for schools.

Money raised in support: $39.8 million
Money raised against: $1.1 million
Biggest donor in support: California Teachers Association, $6.1 million
Biggest donor against: Charles B. Johnson, $200,000

Brown has worked hard to raise money to support the measure, but will it be enough to get it to the finish line?

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State Teachers Beef Up Prop 32 Opposition

Yesterday, the CTA dropped another $6.9 million into the fight against Proposition 32, which would, among other things, prohibit unions from taking money automatically deducted from their members’ paychecks and spending it on political activity. (See LA Times:  Teachers union gives another $6.9 million to Prop. 32 fight.)

“This is a huge priority for us, for unions,” David Goldberg, a teacher in Los Angeles and an elected CTA board member, told me yesterday. This morning, the CTA also released a new web ad entitled “Meet a SuperPAC Billionaire who supports Prop 32.”

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Morning Read: LAUSD Restructured

LAUSD restructures district offices Daily Breeze: As of this school year LAUSD no longer consists of eight geographical district offices by number, but instead is composed of four “educational service centers” designated by direction — north, south, east and west — and a fifth at-large center that is based not on geography but school type.

Most local school districts ignore state’s anti-gay bullying law Daily News: None of the six Long Beach area school districts has complied with AB 9’s July 1 deadline, and only one, Long Beach Unified School District, has since met the requirements, a Press-Telegram investigation has found.

Why rush this gutted education bill into law? Modesto Bee (opinion):  In Doe v. Deasy, the judge found that the Los Angeles Unified school district had never obeyed the Stull Act in evaluating teachers.

Gloria Romero’s Revenge NBC/Prop Zero (blog): California’s public employee unions have long prided themselves on their toughness. If a Democratic politician stepped out of line, they would move to punish that politician.

Cortines’ accuser details long friendship that went bad LA Observed:  Scot Graham, the LA Unified leasing chief who has sued ex-superintendent Ramon Cortines for sexual harassment and filed $10 million claim with the district, says he first met Cortines in San Francisco’s gay community in the 1980s.

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How Prop. 32 Could Affect LAUSD

Gloria Romero (photo by Celeste Freemon)

Prop 32 would have huge implications for LAUSD politics, drastically limiting the amount of money unions could spend on local races. In 2011, UTLA spent over $2 million on school board races. And at first it seems like a straightforward, partisan issue– Democrats and Unions vs. Republicans and rich guys.

But one Democrat has stepped forward to support prop 32: Gloria Romero, California Director of Democrats for School Reform:  “Unless we’re willing to tackle how the money flows,” says Romero, “we’re not going to ever see education reform in California.”  This raises the question:  will other Democrats and school reformers follow Romero’s lead? Or will they be fearful of pissing off the Democratic establishment? Turns out the politics of prop. 32 — and the implications for LAUSD — are not as straightforward as they may seem.

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