UTLA gearing up for SCOTUS Friederichs decision, whatever it is

supreme courtNow that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, a 2013 case with huge implications for unions’ nationwide in their ability to collect dues, the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, is gearing up for whatever the justices decide.

A victory by the plaintiffs would reverse a decades-old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that requires non-union members to pay dues under a “fair share” rationale that non-members derive the same benefits as a members.

Friedrichs is challenging California’s largest teachers union on First Amendment grounds, arguing, in part, that mandatory union dues deny individual members the right of free speech through lobbying efforts and campaign contributions that don’t necessarily comport with the views of all union members.

But either way Friedrichs goes, UTLA will be prepared, said Jeff Good, the union’s Executive Director.

“There’s been a concentrated effort and an on-going effort to turn UTLA into an organizing union and an organizing culture,” he told LA School Report, pointing to the union’s mission to bolster a closer, “two-way relationship” with members of the community.

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UTLA treasurer explains a decade of budget deficits, with more looming

ArleneInouyeUTLA

UTLA Treasurer Arlene Inouye

UTLA, the LA Unified teachers union, has been operating at a deficit for seven of the last 10 years, the union’s treasurer, Arlene Inouye, wrote in the group’s May newsletter.

She said union officials approved deficit budgets for three years during the past decade, but when actual expenses were applied, the union overspent in four additional years since 2006,

Contributing to the deficits, she wrote, were a variety of rising costs, including “representational services, communications, staff health care and other insurance, organizational expenses and technology.”

Another factor she cited in contributing the the deficits has been the drop in membership. Inouye said the union has lost 10,000 members since 2007.

Overall, she wrote in her report, which is available on the UTLA website, the union has lost “more than $2.5 million” over the last three years.

And another year in the red may be looming: The union’s budget for the 2015-2016, she said, “projects an operating deficit of approximately $1.5 million, which is roughly $425,000 more than the $1.1 million operating deficit approved with last year’s budget.”

The deficit would be offset “by the additional dues revenue from the salary increases” in the union’s new contract with LA Unified. Also helping is a transfer of $3 million from the union’s strike fund to the general fund.

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NEA names UTLA’s Jose Lara Social Justice Activist of the Year

UTLA's Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

UTLA’s Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

Jose Lara, a prominent leader of the LA teachers union, UTLA, was recently named the 2015 Social Justice Activist of the Year by the National Education Association (NEA).

Lara helped lead a successful grassroots effort to get the LA Unified school board to adopt ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. He is vice president of the El Rancho Unified School Board, dean at LA Unified’s Santee Education Center and a member of the UTLA board.

Lara received the award Sunday at NEA’s Representative Assembly in Orlando, Fla., which was attended by 7,000 members. The award honors the member who “demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the communities they serve,” according to the NEA.

“As I accept this award, I ask you once again to always remember that social justice is a verb and as Frederick Douglass once reminded us, ‘power concedes nothing without demand,’” Lara told the NEA crowd, according to a UTLA press release. “It is time we organize and start making demands.”

Lara led several rallies and protests outside LA Unified headquarters in the fall as leader of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition, and spoke before the board in November when it voted to approve the new graduation standards.

The news made headlines around the state, as the district became the second in California to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. (District leaders have since, however, expressed some reservations about moving forward with the requirement.)

“Educators have always been rabble rousers, activists and true believers,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. “Jose Lara embodies this tradition, and his work illustrates how we make our mark on the world—as educators who understand the fearless power of collective action.”

 

 

LAUSD teacher elected as CTA secretary-treasurer

David Goldberg-CTA

David Goldberg (credit: CTA)

* UPDATED

LA Unified elementary school teacher David Goldberg has been elected as secretary-treasurer of the California Teachers Association.

Goldberg, 43, spent most of his 19 years at Murchison Elementary, where he is a bilingual teacher who is fluent in Spanish and American Sign Language.

He was one of dozens of educators who spent a night in jail in 2011 after participating in civil disobedience at the State Capitol. That demonstration was part of the CTA’s State of Emergency actions to protest funding cuts.

He joins the leadership team representing 325,000 educators statewide, along with Pittsburg elementary teacher Eric C. Heins as president and Cal State Northridge professor Theresa Montaño as vice president.

“What excites me the most about taking on my new role are the opportunities before me to give back to all those students and educators who have made an impact in my life,” Heins said at his induction ceremony on June 26.

“Working together with my fellow officers and colleagues we will focus on what matters most, and that is ensuring that every student has the quality education they need and deserve, and that educators are working with parents and our communities to lead education change in California.”

In the past, Goldberg worked on the budget committee for the State Council of Education and served as a liaison to the Teacher Evaluation and Academic Freedom committee. He leads the CTA Strategic Planning Workgroup, and plans to work with the CTA Budget Committee and State Council to make sure that the fiscal priorities match up with the organization’s strategic plan.

Activism is part of Goldberg’s family history. His aunt is former Los Angeles City Council member and state assembly representative Jackie Goldberg, who also served as chair of the state Assembly Education Committee and as president of the LA Unified school board. As one of the first members of UTLA, his grandmother participated in a strike that helped give birth to the union in the 1970s.

His wife is Karla Alvarado-Goldberg, an LAUSD middle school psychiatric social worker and a member of the State Council of Education.

After a short stint as a professional basketball player, Goldberg earned his teaching credential through an LAUSD intern program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in community studies from University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives with his wife and three children in Echo Park, his home for most of his life.


*Updated to reflect Goldberg was elected to the position, not appointed

 

A rally for more LAUSD focus on restorative justice programs

Caputo-Pearl

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks outside LAUSD headquarters

A small coalition of community organizations rallied at LA Unified headquarters today, urging district leaders to invest in more restorative justice programs and alternative schools.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign joined with leaders of the parent group, CADRE, Public Counsel and the teachers union, UTLA, to celebrate, what they called “a minor victory.” Beginning next year, the district will stop spending $13 million in state money allocated for the neediest students on school police programs.

But, while some of that funding will now be directed toward the intended population — English learners, special education, and low income students — social justice advocates say it’s not enough.

The district’s 2015-16 budget of nearly $7.1 billion includes an additional $2 million to support restorative justice programs, which officials have said will boost the ranks of counselors throughout the district, and another $1 million for continuation schools.

“It is a step in the right direction,” Ruth Cusick, an education rights attorney for Public Counsel told LA School Report. “We want to see a full investment of $8 million in restorative justice and $5 million targeted to our options schools,” she added, admitting “it’s going to be a continued budget advocacy campaign for the next several years.”

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3 groups planning major rallies at Tuesday’s LAUSD board meeting

LAUSD

School may be out for the summer, but things are not cooling down for the LA Unified school board as no less than three organizations are planing rallies or protests at Tuesday’s scheduled board meeting.

The LA teachers union, UTLA, the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition and a conglomerate of organizations in favor of the district keeping its A through G graduation requirements are all planning to converge on district headquarters. The three groups have significant organizing power and the ability to get hundreds of supporters to mobilize, which should make for a lively board meeting inside and outside.

UTLA is asking its members to “pack the board” meeting on Tuesday to protest the district having issued more than 600 layoff notices in the spring in response to a possible budget shortfall. The layoff notices were issued before Gov. Jerry Brown‘s revised budget included over $700 million in additional funds for the district.

“That is more than enough to rescind all the layoff notices and save all the programs threatened with cuts,” UTLA said in a posting on Facebook that asked for as many members as possible to file into the meeting.  Continue reading

AALA members to vote on ratification of 10% ‘me too’ raise

AALA-and-LAUSD-shaking-handsLA Unified and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) have reached a tentative agreement on a 10 percent salary increase over two years that would replace a June 2014 agreement that called for a 6.5 percent raise.

The agreement is set to be voted on for ratification by members of AALA — which represents principals and other district administrators — between June 5 and June 9 and would then need to be approved by the LA Unified school board.

If the members ratify the agreement, the school board would vote on its final approval in August, and members could expect the raise and backpay to be reflected in their September paycheck, according to the AALA newsletter.

The negotiations on AALA’s contract were reopened after the district reached an agreement on a new three-year contract with the LA teachers union, UTLA, that gave them a 10.4 percent raise. AALA and several other unions that represent district workers have so-called “me too” clauses that entitle them to receive comparable treatment should one union receive a raise higher than others.

AALA provided some details on the agreement in its newsletter. They include:

  • AALA members, certificated and classified, will now receive on-schedule raises totaling 10 percent over two years (retroactive to July 2014) instead of the previous 6.5 percent on-schedule plus the 2 percent off-schedule bonus over three years.
  • Retirees will keep the 2 percent off-schedule bonus they earned for 2013-2014.
  • The 2.5 percent raise previously scheduled to be implemented on July 1, 2016, will instead become part of the larger and earlier on-schedule increases. AALA will retain the opportunity to re-open negotiations in the spring of 2016 regarding salaries for the 2016-2017 school year.

On a related note, UTLA members are scheduled to receive their first paycheck on June 5, which reflects their raises and retroactive back pay. Coincidentally, the flush checks will come the day after the school year ends and will include a retroactive salary payment of 4 percent going back to July 2014 and 2 percent going back to January, according to the UTLA Facebook page.

A toast to the survivors of LA Unified’s wild and crazy year

LA Unified

UTLA rally at Grand Park

The end of another school year this week brings to a close one of LA Unified’s most crazy, controversial and dysfunctional academic years. It’s a real testament to students, teachers and other school personnel that they persevered through so much disruption and tumult.

So, a tip of the hat to the nation’s second-largest school district as it navigated through a Hit Parade of memorable moments. Here are 10 of them, in no particular order of consequence:

The MISIS Meltdown

Even before the first day of school, the MISIS debut was a debacle. Summer school teachers who tested out the district-developed software, which was supposed to streamline and centralize all student data including scheduling, grades, attendance records, and disciplinary files, did their best to sound the alarm about the program’s myriad problems.

But under the direction of Matt Hill, Chief Strategy Officer, and Ron Chandler, Chief Information Officer — both of them now working elsewhere — the district plowed ahead with the district-wide roll out assuring anyone who asked, “We got it!”

While the original budget allocated for MISIS was $29 million, spending is likely to top $133 million next week when the board is expected to approve after another $79.6 million in bond funds. Meanwhile, the district’s IT team is working alongside Microsoft employees on continued repairs that will last through 2015-16.

Superintendent John Deasy Resigns

Superintendent John Deasy was at ideological odds with three, then four members of the school board throughout most of his tenure. But it was the one-two punch of the MISIS failure that left thousands of students across the district class-less for several weeks combined with the continued scrutiny over the terrible iPad deal the district struck with Apple and Pearson that ultimately lead to his departure in October 2014.

His aggressive policies — such as the iPads-for-all program, reconstitution of consistently low-performing schools and his anti-tenure stance — kept him at odds with board members, teachers and the public at large.

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UTLA to ‘pack the board’ meeting, early ed in the spotlight

school report buzzThe LA teachers union, UTLA, has had a busy, visible 2014-15 school year, staging numerous rallies, boycotts and strike threats on the way to securing a new three-year contract and 10.4 percent raise.

But before the school year is out — or technically, just after, as the last day of class for LA Unifed is June 4 — the union is staging one more big event, calling on members to “pack the board” at the June 9 school board meeting.

UTLA is asking members to demand the board rescind it plan to layoff 609 school employees while cutting some programs. The plan was enacted earlier this year in the face of a possible budget deficit, but before Gov. Brown’s revised May budget has pegged an estimated extra $600 million-plus for the district.

UTLA wants as many members as possible to file in to the meeting, asking them to arrive at 7 a.m. to line up outside district headquarters for the 1 p.m. meeting.

Early ed in the spotlight

Speaking of the possible cuts to LA Unified programs, one on the chopping block is the School Readiness Language Development Program. The issue has brought early ed into the spotlight lately around the district as the same time there is new focus on it around the state. Some lawmakers and state leaders are calling the legislature to fund early ed at a much higher level, while Children Now president Ted Lempert recently called Brown’s budget for early education “stunningly minimal.”

Robin McCulloch, who runs the preschool program for San Diego Unified, said the state needs to readjust the income level required to qualify, telling KPBS that many needy families are disqualified from free preschool.

Check out the interview below.

LAUSD names Teachers of the Year

LA Unified has announced that 22 educators will be honored as 2015-16 Teachers of the Year at a luncheon in September.

“I congratulate our 2015-16 Teachers of the Year,” LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “They are the dedicated and compassionate instructors in the classroom who help our students achieve educational excellence. They awaken, brighten and influence the lives of young people and help shape the minds of the future.”

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Plan to overhaul Obama Global Prep Academy draws a union protest

UTLA member Cat Proctor

UTLA member Cat Proctor outside Obama Global Prep Academy

Dozens of teachers, parents and students protested today at a UTLA rally against LA Unified’s plans to reconstitute one of the district’s most troubled schools.

Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy in south LA is one of the district’s few Pilot Schools as well as one of 37 “Reed Investment Schools,” those involved in a legal settlement last year to address inequities at low-performing schools. Under the terms of the deal, the district agreed to provide additional funding to stabilize the schools and to retain teachers.

But after an “accelerated review,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines is calling for an immediate overhaul of the campus — a move that includes restaffing the instructional team. While current educators are encouraged to reapply for their positions, they are not guaranteed jobs.

The teachers union contends that such an intervention would further destabilize the school and claims it is a direct contradiction and violation of the Reed settlement.

“I have been a parent here since the doors opened,” Michelle Miller told the crowd gathered outside the school today. “If it wasn’t for the teachers behind me, my sons would not have graduated. [The people making this decision] don’t know the teachers, they don’t know the students. It’s not right.”

Maria Rivera, who is the Targeted Student Intervention Population Program Advisor at the middle school, said it has been “underfunded and understaffed” since it opened in 2010.

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CCSA paying Alliance alumni to promote anti-UTLA message

UTLA

*UPDATED

A bitter war of words between the management of  Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and UTLA, the union trying to organize its teachers, got nastier today.

UTLA accused Alliance management and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) of “anti-teacher activity” by paying alumni to call parents of students to sway their opinion against union efforts to draw the Alliance teachers into UTLA.

The CCSA confirmed that it is paying alumni to make calls, but claimed to be doing nothing wrong.

UTLA released what it said were “leaked” emails from a CCSA employee, Annie Lee, that included the script the alumni were to follow when they called the parents.

“This is sowing the seeds of distrust among parents and students,” Michael Letton, an Alliance teacher, said in a statement issued by UTLA. “This is an unethical practice. Paying alumni to read a script designed to get parents to sign a petition against their own students’ teachers infuriates me.”

Elana Goldbaum, a teacher at Alliance’s Gertz-Ressler Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex who has been active in the union drive, said, “I don’t want parents to get misinformation. This is 100 percent a campaign to create fear among parents. It’s inappropriate.”

Alliance College-Ready Pubic School operates 26 charter within LA Unified, many of them high performing, and its teachers currently work independently without union representation. A group of teachers at Alliance has been working recently to organize Alliance’s 600-plus teachers to join UTLA.

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Pressing issues for LAUSD board: Teachers contract, graduation rates

LAUSD boardTomorrow’s LA Unified School Board meeting is shaping up to be loud and crowded as the seven members take the final step in approving a new contract with the teachers union and consider several plans to fix impending drop in graduation rates.

After years of working under an expired contract, UTLA members last week overwhelmingly approved a tentative agreement with the district that will lead to 10.4 percent raise for teachers over two years. More than 97 percent of union members, nearly 25,000, voted yes and once the board approves it, the new contract will bring teachers a boost in paychecks as early as next month.

The new deal is expected to cost the district about $633 million over three years, plus an additional $31.6 million for several labor groups with “me too” clauses, also over three years, as part of a budget that was already $140 million short, according to LA Unified officials.

But despite the victory that both sides are claiming in reaching a deal after such a long and contentious negotiations, UTLA is planning a rally outside the meeting to fight proposed program cuts and layoffs. Last month the district issued 609 layoff notices to a combination of teachers, counselors and psychologists, and several programs, including adult and early education, face severe cut backs.

Another group intent on demonstrating are supporters of a resolution — the Equity on A-G: Re-affirming Our Commitment to A-G Life Preparation for All — sponsored by Mónica García and Steve Zimmer.

The resolution is an effort to correct a situation the board created 10 years ago when it passed a new set of college-prep high school graduation requirements called A through G. While the original policy was designed to benefit all students by equalizing access to college-preparing courses, it has inadvertently created a ticking time bomb: Only a fraction of students are prepared to take the more rigorous courses by the time they reach high school, which means that by 2017, the first year the requirements will be fully implemented, the district expects to a sharp decline in the graduation rate.

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UTLA members overwhelmingly approve agreement with LAUSD

Alex Caputo-Pearl

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pea

* UPDATED

UTLA  members overwhelmingly approved a tentative contract with LA Unified that will lead to 10.4 percent raise for teachers over two years.

The school board is expected to rubber stamp the new deal at its next board meeting, on Tuesday.

Eighty three percent of union members — 25,300 people — participated in the ratification, with 97 percent voting to approve, the union said. An even higher percentage, 99 percent, voted yes to a two-year extension of the existing health benefits plan.

A UTLA official who was part of the team counting votes this afternoon, called the turn-out “amazing.”

“It’s one of the highest turnouts that UTLA has had in over a decade,” the official said, explaining that it’s “the result of numerous engagement efforts that began with the changeover in leadership and the campaign for Schools LA Students Deserve.

In addition to raises — the first in eight years — the contract also establishes a $13 million fund to hire more secondary school counselors to attain a newly-established 500-to-1 student-to-counselor ratio. But, the LA Daily News reports another $13 million that had been promised to teachers to reduce eighth and ninth grade English and Math classes, is not guaranteed, as UTLA members were told.

“The Collective Bargaining Agreement is good for educators and students— with class size caps, lower counselor to student ratios, improved learning and working conditions, and fair compensation,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “The Health Benefits Agreement extends fully funded healthcare benefits for all UTLA members and all our LAUSD labor partners. We are proud of our organizing efforts that led us here, but our work continues for the Schools LA Students Deserve.”

 

The language of the contract stipulates additional teachers and other class size reduction efforts will go forward only if the district has the money available.

By current budget projections the district is facing an estimated $127 million deficit, not counting the extra teacher expenditure.

In all, the agreement with UTLA will cost a total of $633 million over three years, plus an additional $31.6 million for several labor groups with “me too” clauses, also over three years, according to LA Unified officials.

The district had initially allocated $353 million for UTLA, which means the additional money from the state and from enrollment increases could be crucial to forestalling deficits in the years to come. Superintendent Ramon Cortines told board members that the district faces potential deficits as much as $559 million over two years through 2016-2017 if the additional state money is only a one-time occurrence.


*Adds comment from Alex Caputo-Pearl.

 

Audit of school connected to board candidate stirs political waters

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

The release of an audit of a charter school co-founded by school board candidate Ref Rodriguez is heating up the waters of the already boiling LA Unified District 5 school board race.

One day after reports emerged that a school board member, Monica Garcia, tried to delay the release of the audit, conducted by the district’s Office of the Inspector General, the district made it public yesterday: It found that Lakeview Charter Academy has problems with finances, proper oversight, record-keeping and in some instances, training.

Rodriguez co-founded PUC Schools, which now has 14 charter schools operating in LA Unified, including Lakeview, and another in New York. He stepped down from running the organization in 2009 and now serves on the board of directors.

The Los Angeles Times, which was the first to release the audit, reported that the problems are not on the level that would result in the school shutting down, but that hasn’t stopped Rodriguez’s political foes, led by the teachers union, UTLA, from attempting to capitalize on the news.

“Ref Rodriguez has shown that he isn’t capable of managing 16 schools. How can we trust him to manage over 1,000 public schools with transparency and accountability?” the LA teachers union, UTLA, said in a statement. UTLA is supporting Rodriguez’s opponent in the May 19 runoff election, the incumbent, Bennett Kayser.

UTLA also said, “The audit shows that the situation at PUC Lakeview Charter Academy was so serious that it calls into question whether the school can even continue to exist.” Nothing in the audit said Lakeview was at risk of being closed.

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UTLA cries foul over hundreds of adult ed teachers on layoff list

UTLA Colleen Schwab

UTLA’s Secondary VP Colleen Schwab speaks outside the East LA Skills Center

*UPDATED

Among the 609 LA Unified employees who received layoff notices last month were hundreds of adult eduction teachers.

But the LA teachers union, UTLA, still has a thing to two to say about it. Just two days after protesting the cuts, UTLA leaders today held a press conference this morning outside of the East LA Skills Center to draw attention to adult education.

The district is facing a $160 million deficit next fiscal year and says the layoffs are needed to balance books. But UTLA is challenging the cuts as unnecessary.

Certificated employees were notified last month that they could be laid off or reassigned, the district had 60 days to notify them.

Besides adult ed teachers, elementary school teachers, counselors and psychiatric social workers also received a high number of notifications.

“What we are facing here today is a cut in programs because the District is attempting to eliminate educators from this vital program (Adult Ed)…UTLA calls upon the District to rescind these layoffs and keep these vital programs in place,” said
UTLA Secondary Vice President Colleen Schwab at the press conference. “Standing right behind me are future nurses for our country and these programs, along with the educators behind them, will enhance our community because people will get jobs.”

Not long after the potential layoffs were announced, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl appeared at an LA Unified school board meeting and reminded the members that no other major districts in the state are implementing layoffs. He suggested the layoffs were a punitive action aimed at UTLA for its recent threats of a strike during contract negotiations.

“There are no layoffs occurring in San Diego. There are no layoffs occurring in Long Beach. There are no layoffs occurring in Oakland. There are no layoffs occurring in San Jose. There are no layoffs occurring in San Francisco. There are no layoffs occurring in Stockton. And I could go on,” Caputo-Pearl told the board.

UTLA and the district have since come to a tentative agreement on a contract.


 

*Updated to inlaced quote from Colleen Schwab

Teachers protest LA Unified 609 layoff notices to offset deficit

UTLA* UPDATED

One week after a landmark deal that will bring LA Unified teachers a double digit salary increase, more than a hundred members of the teachers union, UTLA, protested potential district layoffs this morning before the start of hearings to challenge the cuts.

The school board last month authorized 609 layoff notices that were issued to teachers, counselors and social workers, explaining that “reductions in force” are necessary to balance the 2015-16 budget.

At the time, district officials projected a $160 million deficit for next year. That was before the tentative three-year agreement giving teachers a 10.4 percent raise over two years was made. Once implemented, the new deal will cost an additional $171 million annually.

But union leaders argue there is enough money to keep their members on staff and issue raises. UTLA is banking on a massive infusion of cash from the state after Governor Jerry Brown’s budget revisions in May to offset any potential budget deficits.

“The district has to prove they do not have the money to justify a layoff,” Suzanne Spurgeon, UTLA’s communications director, told LA School Report. “UTLA does not believe the layoffs are necessary. These cuts will negatively impact students.”

Permanent, certificated employees affected by the layoffs have a right to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.


 

*Corrects quote attributed to Suzanne Spurgeon.

UTLA pulls back campaign spending on Kayser in shift to Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson

Despite only modest spending on behalf of Bennett Kayser in the race to represent LA Unified’s board District 5, the teachers union said today it’s not abandoning him in the May 19 run off against reform darling, Ref Rodriguez.

According to the latest data from the LA City Ethics Commission, the political action committee connected to the California Charter Schools Association has spent $468,126 and a student canvassing group, Students for Education Reform Action Network, has spent $38,126 in support of Rodriguez. That total — $506,252 — dwarfs the amount spent by UTLA and SEUI Local 99, the service workers union, for Kayser. They have invested $13,893 and $33,105 respectively, for a total of $56,998.

Overall, the pro-Rodriguez groups have outspent the pro-Kayser groups by almost 9-to-1, with the charter group outspending the union by nearly 34-to-1.

Union officials say they believe Kayser is well known enough as an incumbent that they can shift their spending away from District 5 and use funds to back Scott Schmerelson, the long time administrator opposing incumbent Tamar Galatzan in the valley race for District 3.

“The decision to spend in District 3 was made from a strategic standpoint,” Oraui Amoni, UTLA’s political director, told LA School Report.

“Since we didn’t endorse Schmerelson in the primary, we knew we needed to get his name out there sooner rather than later,” Amoni said. “Whereas with Kayser we’ve been campaigning for him all along, so the need to get his name out there isn’t the same.”

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Alliance officials deny illegal ‘anti-union’ accusations of UTLA

UTLA-graphicThe LA teachers union, UTLA, released documents today that it says proves the administration of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has been illegally blocking a unionization attempt by its teachers. Alliance, in turn, acknowledged the documents were real and said that they prove nothing.

The documents outline a clear strategy by the administration to win the hearts and minds of teachers and parents over the union, but UTLA insists they also support a complaint it took earlier this month to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). accusing Alliance of illegally interfering with efforts to unionize teachers.

The administration of Alliance has made no secret of the fact that it opposes its teachers’ joining UTLA. Alliance said in a press release yesterday that all of its actions have been legal, it has “nothing to hide,” and “in fact assume that all our documents related to the unionization campaign will end up in outside hands.”

The complaint to PERB came weeks after a group of 67 Alliance teachers announced a plan to mobilize the organization’s 600-plus teachers to join UTLA. Alliance operates 26 LA Unified charter schools, and its teachers currently work independent of any union representation.

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Anti-Rodriguez ‘issue’ flyers draw complaints from charter group

anti-Rodriguez flyerThe California Charter Schools Association political action committee says it has filed complaints against the teachers union PAC for not reporting spending on material attacking Ref Rodriguez, the charter school executive who is challenging school board incumbent Bennett Kayser in LA Unified’s District 5 runoff on May 19.

The charter group, which is spending heavily on Rodriguez’s behalf, says it has taken its complaints to the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, focusing on mailers and flyers from the UTLA “issue advocacy” committee. UTLA is supporting Kayser.

A spokesman for state commission, Jay Wierenga, confirmed that a complaint was filed, saying, “We have received it and it is under review.” The commission would determine “in a week or two” if it would open an investigation, he added.

A spokesman for the city ethics commission said it routinely does not comment on complaints, including whether they have been filed.

Under state law, spending for so-called “issues” material is not required to be declared as campaign material. In response to a question when the flyers first appeared several weeks ago, the union said, “This is an issues piece. Not political. Not reportable.”

The charter group is contending otherwise.

“Not only is the timing of the distribution of these mailers and flyers – less than a month before the election – suspect, but they are also almost identical in look and content to mailers that were reported by UTLA’s campaign committee in February,” Gary Borden, Executive Director of CCSA Advocates, the political action committee, said in a statement. “In addition, the flyers and mailers single out Dr. Rodriguez but do not mention any other individual or school operator.

He added, ”This is a clear ethics violation.”

The union did not resepond to several messages seeking comment about the complaints.

The flyers at issue can be seen here, here and here.

Deal with teachers puts LAUSD on track to new evaluation plan

teacher_evaluation_satisfactoryLost in the focus on double-digit salary increases in the tentative deal between LA Unified and UTLA is an agreement to overhaul the process by which the district’s 30,000 teachers will be evaluated.

Under the new plan, which begins next year, both sides agreed to an interim three-tier final evaluation system, with three ratings: “exceeds standards,” “meets standards” and “below standards.”

The new system replaces a two-tier final evaluation system that rated teachers as “meeting standards” or “below standards.”

The district and the union also agreed to form a joint task force to re-write the Teacher Growth and Development Cycle, a series of protocols that form the basis of the final evaluation rankings, by 2016-17.

Those procedures came under fire during Superintendent John Deasy‘s tenure when UTLA argued that Deasy was trying to lay the groundwork for merit-based pay when he added a new ranking of “highly effective” to other evaluation metrics. The union took the issue to the state labor board, PERB, and a judge ruled in its favor.

That decision ultimately forced the district to eliminate the added ranking and revert to the previous system. But it still left teachers and their supervisors — school principals — frustrated and confused. Principals especially complained that the system had become too burdensome with a backlog of paperwork, leaving little time to conduct multiple class observations and to provide meaningful feedback. Continue reading