No Race to Top for Teachers Union, ‘Travesty,’ Says Galatzan*

Superintendent John Deasy, left, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, right

Superintendent John Deasy, left, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, right

The Los Angeles teachers union said today that LA Unified’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant had “so many glaring problems” that the union could not support it.

This was the second straight year the union refused to sign off on the district’s application, which was unanimously approved by the school board. Union participation is a federal requirement for submission.

Tamar Galatzan, an LA Unified Board member, called the union’s decision “a travesty,” adding: “This district is still woefully short of funds,” she said in a statement. “To turn down millions in funding for our neediest and most at-risk students at a time like this is inexcusable. Our mission is to serve students above all else, and this action did not do that.”

Board member Monica Garcia agreed, saying, “Children lose when leadership stands in opposition rather than finding solutions to work together for the benefit of our children and communities.”

A statement from the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, said union officials last month expressed concerns with the district about the grant proposal and said the district “did not collaborate” with union president Warren Fletcher, who was only presented the proposal a day before the deadline.

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Deasy: ‘One of the Biggest Adjustments Ever’

deasyLA Unified opens its doors for a new school year tomorrow, and despite an especially contentious few months for LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, he’s all optimism. 

In Part One of a two-part interview, LA School Report contributor Vanessa Romo talks with Deasy about his relationship with teachers, the challenges of pioneering the new Common Core curriculum and the possibility that district-wide test scores might fall this year.

Q: Despite the upward trend of metrics that suggest the district is making progress – rising API scores, increasing graduation rates, and a significant reduction in suspension rates – the vast majority of respondents* to a teachers’ union survey found your performance either “below average” or “poor”, especially when it comes to morale and spending money. How do you answer your critics?

A: I can make no sense of it whatsoever. I have a fantastic relationship with the teachers of this district. Our teachers are doing a phenomenal job. I’ve been calling on the Board to give teachers and all employees a raise. I admire them, and I’m not confused about my mission, which is to lift youth out of poverty.

If you want to get technical about it, I don’t spend money. I make recommendations, and the [school] board decides. So since my recommendation is that 96 cents of every dollar go to schools, I don’t even know how to respond to that statement. I’m looking for partners to do this work with the teachers union leadership. I would love to have a partner to advance this work and recognize great teaching.

(*About 27 percent of the union’s 32,000 members participated in the survey.)

Q: In a speech at the teachers’ union leadership conference, UTLA President Warren Fletcher said you have conducted a “witch hunt” on teachers, and that Los Angeles “has become the teacher dismissal capital of California. While LAUSD employs about 10 percent of the state’s teachers, the district accounts for nearly 40 percent of California’s teacher dismissal cases.” Are you on a witch hunt?

A: Of course not. The board recommends to dismiss teachers when they harm children. Like when they sleep with a child or do drugs with a child or strike a child or steal money from the system; that’s when people get dismissed. I think those are morally obligatory reasons to have no one working with a child.

I don’t criticize the union, and I don’t criticize their leadership. I think the record is explicitly clear, I’ve never actually had a criticism out loud of Warren Fletcher.  But I certainly hope he wants to be a partner for the new $30 million in federal money to honor classroom practice that’s in Race to the Top. I hope they don’t leave that money on the table again.

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Morning Read: Progress for Bill Limiting Overuse of Suspensions

Bill Restricting ‘Willful Defiance’ for Suspending Students Moves Ahead
With new data showing that more than half of all suspensions and a quarter of expulsions in California schools are for “willful defiance” of school authorities, the Assembly Education Committee voted 6-0 on Wednesday to move forward a bill that would restrict the use of the vague category by school administrators. EdSource

School Boards Join Movement Against Out-of-School Suspensions
The National School Boards Association has labeled the use of out-of-school suspensions a “crisis” in a new report. EdWeek

Baldwin Park School District Wins #1 Spot in Closing the Achievement Gap
Recently we reported on two schools in the Baldwin Park school district that have unique programs: a high school that helps teenage parents stay in school, and an elementary school where teaching a dual language immersion program is yielding top results. KPCC

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Engage in Acrimonious Debate
Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti blasted one another with a torrent of allegations Wednesday night in the most acrimonious debate of the Los Angeles mayor’s race. LA Times

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Morning Read: Board Debates Parent Policy, Technology Funding

LAUSD Board Debates Raising Salaries or Buying Students Tablet Computers
With the groundwork laid for a new digital-learning plan, a request for a strategy to buy computer tablets for all students erupted Tuesday into a shouting match between two Los Angeles Unified board members over setting budget priorities for the district. LA Daily News
See also: CBS LA, LA School Report

Southland Schools Come up Empty in Contest for Federal Grants
No district or organization in the region qualified for Race to the Top money. Green Dot Public Schools could have received $30 million but fell short. LA Times

LAUSD Board Narrowly OKs New Parent Policy at Low-Income Schools
A long-simmering controversy about which parents can have a voice at Los Angeles Unified’s low-income schools erupted Tuesday, with boisterous critics accusing a district administrator of bullying and discriminatory tactics. LA Daily News

L.A. School Menus to Keep Aiming High in Childhood Obesity Fight
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education approved a resolution to continue monitoring and improving its nationally recognized food and nutrition policy. Marina del Rey Patch

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Morning Read: LAUSD Not a Race to Top Finalist

LAUSD Not a Race to the Top 2012 Finalist
Finalists for the White House’s 2012 Race to the Top grant competition were released Monday. To no one’s surprise, the Los Angeles Unified School District is not a contender. Huff Po

Four CA Districts Make Race to the Top Finals
Out of 17 districts that applied for a share of the nearly $400 million in federal grant money, only four made the cut to the finals.  Districts that didn’t make the cut include Los Angeles, Fresno and Clovis Unified. EdSource Daily

Charter Group, but Not L.A. Unified, Finalist for Race to the Top
A local charter school organization is a finalist for a high-profile federal grant, but the Los Angeles Unifed School District failed to qualify in the same competition. LA Times

Great Uncertainty Over Direction of State Standardized Tests
What subjects should be tested, for whom, how often (not every year in every subject, perhaps), at what cost, and, perhaps the biggest question, for what purpose? EdSource

Inglewood Superintendent Returns to Turn Schools Around
Kent Taylor hopes to stabilize the insolvent district that he says set him on his course through life. But not everyone is rooting for him. LA Times

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Good News for Green Dot*

Remember a few weeks ago when UTLA refused to sign onto LAUSD’s Race to the Top application, and Superintendent John Deasy sent it in anyway (along with a press release)?

Well it took the US Department of Education about five minutes to reject LAUSD’s application, and — thanks to 300 peer reviewers — it took just a few weeks to whittle nearly 1200 district applications down to 61 finalists.

LAUSD is not one of them, of course, but Animo Charter High School (a part of Green Dot) is included on the list.  And in related news, Green Dot founder Steve Barr noted that Green Dot NYC was awarded a “big fat A” by the NYC Department of Education.

*UPDATE: Also on Monday, Green Dot announced that founder Barr had resigned from its board, severing the last remaining official connection between them. See LA Daily News for more.

Previous posts:  LAUSD Applies Without Union SupportDeasy’s Go-It-Alone ApplicationCautious Union, Sad Superintendent

Districts Compromise To Win Union Support

Lots of school districts besides LAUSD failed to come to agreement with teachers unions about applying for the district version of Race to the Top funding from Washington.

However, thanks to an all-out effort and a fair bit of compromise, Fresno was able to win an agreement with its local union, as were Denver, Las Vegas, and even Chicago.

The Huffington Post LA and the  LA Daily News editorial page criticized the teachers union for the collapse of talks in LA.

The LA Times editorial page put the blame on both parties: “Both UTLA and Supt. John Deasy could have been more flexible on the cost issue.”

Previous posts: Deasy’s “Go-It-Alone” ApplicationChicago Teachers Approve “Race” ApplicationLAUSD Applies Without Union Support

Morning Read: Prop. 30 Countdown

Support for Brown’s Tax Measure Holding its Own
Likely to be in the Prop. 30 camp’s favor is a massive increase in the number of newly-registered voters, said to be mostly young Democrats. Since the state launched an online registration program in September, nearly an additional one million residents have signed up to vote. SI&A Cabinet Report

Campaign Spending to Promote Props. 30 and 38 Exceeds $100 million
Proponents of Propositions 30 and 38 have now poured a combined total of $117 million to convince voters to support their respective measures, both of which are intended to raise billions of dollars for schools and other programs. Ed Source 

Prop. 30: OC Schools Struggle Amid Anti-Tax Fervor
The district’s students have already lost a week of instruction this year and stand to lose two more weeks if Prop. 30 does not pass. But Capo Unified admnistrators don’t talk about that. KPCC

State Supreme Court Wants Arizona Donors Audited
The high court orders a group that donated $11 million to a fund fighting Prop. 30 and supporting Prop. 32 to hand over records. The group is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. LA Times

Is There a Plan B For the State Budget if California’s Proposition 30 Fails?
Education leaders have privately discussed fallback efforts to spare schools from some of the worst consequences, especially after the initiative fell below 50 percent in recent polls. Sac Bee

Fresno Teachers Union Lets District Apply For Federal Grant
After a marathon debate, the Fresno teachers union agreed to endorse its school district’s application for a federal grant that would require controversial changes in instructor evaluations. LA Times

Ed Source has more

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Deasy’s Go-It-Alone Application

Superintendent John Deasy submitted the district’s Race to the Top application to Washington yesterday without the support of UTLA — and without any real chance of wining approval — largely to score political points against the teachers union, according to Board-watchers.

“I think both sides are ready to fight each other full steam on Tuesday [after the election],” said one insider who didn’t want to be named. “He’s just smarter and more nimble than UTLA, so he started throwing a few punches. ”

“It is a publicity stunt,” said another observer. “There was no tangible chance of it getting approved.” [Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education rejected the application almost immediately.]

Deasy also knew he had Board members on the record in support of the proposal. As he references in his letter to Secretary Duncan, the Board voted unanimously in support of the district’s Race to the Top application just last month, on October 9th.

Previous posts: Chicago Teachers Approve “Race” ApplicationLAUSD Applies Without Union SupportUpdate: Cautious Union, Sad SuperintendentUnion Unmoved by Hurricane Extension

Morning Read: What Would Be Cut?

Big Districts Divided Over Cutting School Year if Prop. 30 Fails
Slightly more than a third report that they do not plan any more furlough days, and the rest say that a shorter school year remains an option that they plan to raise with their unions. Ed Source

L.A. Unified Competes For U.S. Funds Without Key Element
A handful of California school districts have overcome hesitation or distrust from teacher unions to agree on applying for a high-profile, controversial federal grant. Los Angeles Unified, however, has opted to compete for the award without union endorsement, which it could not obtain. LA Times

Prop. 30 Fact Check
KPCC’s Tami Abdollah is fact checking the different arguments against proposition 30.  KPCC

Student-Centered Teacher Evaluations Focus on Learning Goals
Though the teacher evaluation bill, AB 5, collapsed again in August, there is wide agreement on the state’s responsibility to ensure that every student has an effective teacher.  Ed Source

California Ballot Holds Credit Risk for School Districts
If voters in California next week reject ballot measures to raise taxes, school districts in the Golden State will be among the first victims of spending cuts – a major concern not only for teachers and parents but also bondholders. Reuters

Chicago Teachers Approve “Race” Application

The Chicago Teachers Union, which recently went on strike

Not too far removed from the seven-day strike that captured the nation’s attention in September, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has signed off on the district’s Race to the Top application.

“Chicago — one of the most militant teachers unions in country — sees the light of day, and UTLA is still hiding under a rock,” noted Los Angeles-based Democratic political consultant Mike Trujillo.

However, it is not yet clear whether the as yet-unannounced Chicago agreement resembles the Los Angeles proposal in all its key details.

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LAUSD Applies Without Union Support

LAUSD has just announced that it was sending in its $40 million Race to the Top Application today, despite the fact that UTLA refused to sign off on it.

“Although UTLA refused to be a partner in this critically important grant,” said Deasy in a press release, “I will advocate for it on behalf of the administrators, students, and faculty of this District.  To that end, I have instructed staff to submit an application with all required signatures except that of the teacher’s union.”

You can read the full press release here.  You can read Deasy’s letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan here via KPCC. The Obama administration established the district-focused version of Race to the Top in order to give access to districts in states like California that had not applied for or won Race to the Top funding.

Update: According to Barbara Jones of the Daily News, the U.S. Department of Education considers the application incomplete without UTLA’s endorsement.

Previous posts: Update: Cautious Union, Sad SuperintendentUnion Unmoved by Hurricane Extension

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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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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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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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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Morning Read: Deasy Pushes Tablets

LAUSD’s Plan to Fund New Technology LAUSD:  Noting that within three years the State is scheduled to administer its tests electronically – no more paper and pencil – Deasy said the time is now for the District to greatly expand its digital access and capabilities.

Calif. Poised to Spotlight ELLs Stalled in Schools EdWeek: California is poised to become the first state to unmask the extent to which English-language learners languish in public schools for years without ever reaching fluency.

Teacher Evaluations At Center Of Chicago Strike NPR: In California, after the state legislature mandated the use of student progress benchmarks to rate teachers, an education reform group sued the Los Angeles Unified School District to force the issue.

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Morning Read: Big Interest In “Race” Money

Uncertainty surrounds many district applications for Race to the Top SI&A Cabinet Report: With just over a month remaining to the deadline, about 80 local educational agencies in California are trying to decide whether to seek a federal Race to the Top grant given the long odds and resources required to even compete for a share of the $400 million award. (See also: LAUSD pursues $40M Race to the Top grant LA Daily News).

Texas adopts CA’s strategy on NCLB waiver, prompting new risk SI&A Cabinet Report: California is no longer the only state trying to get relief from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act without committing to the conditions set down by the Obama administration – Texas is trying to do the same thing.

11 parcel taxes, 44 school bonds on November ballot Ed Source: In this round, however, five of the 11 districts are in Central or Southern California: Santa Barbara Unified, Ventura Unified, and three in Los Angeles County – Centinela Valley Union High School District, Lake City School District (near Whittier), and Westside Union School District (in Quartz Hill).

Deferred Action hopefuls flood LA schools with doc requests Fox News: The LAUSD confirmed that since Aug. 15, when the Deferred Action program went into effect, it has built up a backlog of more than 2,300 requests for transcripts or diplomas. Applicants must prove that they have resided continuously in the country since ..

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