LA Unified violated state employment laws by imposing an evaluation system on members of its teacher union, UTLA, a state agency said in a tentative ruling made public today.
If the ruling made on Christmas Eve by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) stands, the district would have to stop the evaluation process, which was implemented in 2013 under former Superintendent John Deasy. The district would also be ordered to compensate UTLA members for any financial losses incurred as a direct result of the evaluation system, which was based on a four-level observation rating system.
UTLA, which filed the complaint in June 2013, said in a statement it is “gratified” for the board ruling. The district has until Feb. 22 to appeal, but the union said it “is confident that if there is an appeal, the full PERB board will affirm the administrative law judge’s decision that the District acted unlawfully.”
David Holmquist, the district’s chief legal counsel, declined to comment on the preliminary ruling, saying he has not had an opportunity to discuss the ruling with the school board.
“I’m not ready to say what we think it means,” Holmquist told LA School Report in a phone call. “There’s a lot that we need to figure out,” he added.
The board will review the findings and plan a potential response at its board meeting next week.
“Once I bring it up to the board we will decide what responses we want to make to that,” Holmquist said. Some possibilities he mentioned are filing an extension of time to continue litigation or firing off a list of objections to the preliminary ruling.
In the meantime, Holmquist confirmed the district is “in conversation with UTLA.”
Since the district implemented a four-level evaluation, UTLA has objected, arguing that the union’s 30,000 members never had a chance to vote on it. They also allege it creates a path to establish merit pay to reward the highest performing teachers. Another element they oppose, is the use of student testing data in judging teacher efficacy.
Teacher evaluations have been part of the contract negotiations between the district and the union that have generated little progress so far. The sides are scheduled to resume talks a week from today.
*Adds comment from UTLA.