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

LAUSD deal with teachers means fingers crossed for more state money

Alex Caputo-Pearl teachers

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at a press conference yesterday

LA Unified’s ability to pay for a new teacher contract that gives the union’s 35,000 members a 10.4 percent raise — their first in eight years — relies on two factors: One, a stronger than expected boost in tax revenues from the state. And two, a solution to the systemic problem of declining enrollment.

That, or the district faces program cuts and budget deficits.

If approved, the new deal will cost a total of $633 million over three years, plus an additional $31.6 million for three 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.

The district has been crying poverty for months, but board members yesterday attempted to assuage concerns that implementation of the agreement would bring LA Unified to its financial knees by expressing their faith in the continued growth of the state economy.

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Just In: LAUSD board approves teacher deal, valued at $607 million

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outside Dorsey High School

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outside Dorsey High School

* UPDATED
The 10.4 percent salary increases LA Unified has agreed to in its deal with United Teachers Los Angeles will cost the district $607 million over three years, according to an analysis Superintendent Ramon Cortines circulated to board members today.

Later, the board voted unanimously, 7-0, to approve the deal.

The final salary figure for the teachers includes $254 million above an amount the district had earlier set aside for the teachers, $353 million, and it does not include an additional $31.6 million that the district will need to pay to other labor union partners who have so called “me-too” clauses. They obligate the district to keep union pay scales on par with each other.

Those expenditures, plus the costly health benefits package approved by the board last week, “will result in two of the district’s out-years having deficit ending balances,” Cortines wrote in his memo. By the end of the 2015-16 the district expects to be $140 million short and about $419 million in the red in 2016-17 for a total deficit of $559 million.

However, Cortines said he expected Gov. Jerry Brown‘s revised budget, due next month, combined with “ending balances” for the current school year would “meet this deficit.”

“The first priority for any new undesignated funds are first to cover the terms of the health and welfare multiyear contract and then to cover the salary agreements and deficits created in the out-years by both,” he wrote. “If the May revise includes one-time funds, the out-years will likely remain in a deficit status that we will have to address accordingly.”

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A deal that lets LAUSD and the teachers union proclaim victory

teachers unionViews of an agreement:

The salary raises agreed upon in the deal between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, is a win for both sides. Of, course, each side can spin the results in a different way.

For the teachers, they can legitimately say they got a double-digit boost, 10 percent over two years.

The district could say the breakdown reflects a 4 percent bonus for all those (eight) years when teachers got nothing, 2 percent to come from extra money the state will send the district’s way through revised state budget projections and 2 percent a year for each of the next two years, which is basically what the district’s other labor partner unions got.

The teachers unions also got a “reopener,” which means the contract can be reexamined at its conclusion to calibrate additional money for teachers in the years that follow. Assuming there is additional money. The challenge for the district is figuring a way to find new revenue.

One way is through increasing enrollment, which has been steadily declining for years, costing millions of dollars.

There’s also a ballot initiative that goes before voters in November 2016 that would alter the state taxing scheme under Prop 13, making it easier to raise rates on commercial property. Passage would improve the changes the district would consider a schedule of more raises.

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LA Unified board calls meeting to approve contract offered to teachers

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

The Los Angeles Unified school board is meeting tomorrow afternoon in private to vote on approving the contract agreement negotiated with the 35,000-member teachers union, UTLA, that gives district teachers a 10.4 percent raise over two years.

What that translates to in dollars is a work in progress. Tom Waldman, the district spokesman, told LA School Report today that the district’s chief financial officer, Megan Reilly, is developing a breakdown of the costs in tiome for tomorrow’s meeting.

The closed session had not been on the scheduled but was quickly arranged to put the deal before the seven board members for a vote.

Reilly has spent the last several months warning the board to observe fiscal restraint. She has has told the members that any raise above the district’s earlier offer of 5 percent would put the district at risk of financial ruin.

In a presentation to the board on March 11, she reported that LA Unified is facing a budget deficit of $113 million for the 2015-16 academic year. The district also issued 609 possible lay-off notices for next year for a savings of nearly $51 million.

Further, the board sent an interim report to the Los Angeles County of Board of Education last month, saying that based on current projections LA Unified may not be able to meet its financial obligations. That report, which projected a deficit and recommended millions of dollars in cuts left blank a section which projected any additional costs for future labor agreements. (See here).

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JUST IN: Teachers union, LAUSD reach tentative contract agreement

contract settlement2United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the second largest teachers union in the country, has reached a tentative agreement with LA Unified, according to an announcement issued by UTLA late last night. The new contract would includes a 10 percent raise over two years, likely bringing to an end the threat of a strike that has been in the air since the summer.

Officials from LA Unified have not confirmed that an agreement has been reached.

News of the agreement came after the district and the union had met numerous times with a mediator this week, a result of state mandated negotiations after the two sides declared an impasse earlier this year.  Friday’s meeting was the fourth with the mediator, one more than required by law.

Ratification of the tentative agreement will be needed from the 35,000 union members and the LA Unified school board.  Continue reading

LAUSD ranks low on ‘bang for buck’ list; Cortines planning exit?

school report buzz

Sometimes, it seems, the hits never stop coming for LA Unified.

The latest blow comes from the financial website Nerdwallet and its article, “Best School Districts for Your Buck in California.”

The story ranked all the state’s districts based on the criteria of affordability to live there, standardized test scores, college readiness and class size.

So how did things shake out for LAUSD on the list?

Not well. Out of 375 districts, LA Unified ranked 369th.

According to the list, the Davis Joint Unified School District offers the best bang for the buck in California. The list also found that some of the highest performing districts were small, rural ones and that you “don’t need to spend a mint to live in a good school district.”

Cortines leaving?

Rumor and Speculation Department: LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has told people at district headquarters that he does not intend to stay in the job for another year beyond this current one.

“He’s contemplating his replacement,” said someone who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

His departure would bring to an end his third tour of duty as LAUSD superintendent, following his hiring last year to replace John Deasy.

Who could the next superintendent be? If the district stays inside, the best guesses are Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and School Support Ruth Perez and CEO of Educational Services Thelma Melendez.

If the board goes outside? Could be anyone — although probably not John Deasy.

UTLA calls for leniency for convicted Atlanta educators

“Unexpectedly harsh” sentences were given to eight former Atlanta educators this week as they were convicted of racketeering in connection with falsifying their students’ standardized test scores, the New York Times reported.

With prison terms of up to seven years, some teacher unions are saying the sentences go too far, and the LA teachers union, UTLA, agrees. There were many calls for leniency, but Judge Jerry W. Baxter made it clear where he stands when he called the scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.” For a city that has seen a horrific child serial killer, a bombing at the Olympics and its burning to the ground during the Civil War, that is saying a lot.

UTLA is among the unions calling for leniency and on its Facebook page posted a link to a petition calling for the educators not to receive jail time. “Their conviction, however, fails to recognize the real racketeers–the corporate reformers who created the high-stakes testing regime and profit off its failure,” the petition states.

 

 

LA Unified board approves new employee health care package

Monica-RatliffThe LA Unified school board yesterday approved a health care package of benefits for its unions that will increase the district’s contributions to the plan to $1.23 billion over the next three years. without requiring an analysis of the long-term effects of additional costs, including the possibility of bankruptcy.

Board member Monica Ratliff tried to require that the proposal, from Superintendent Ramon Cortines, include additional information before the board votes on a new budget in June. But the effort failed by a 5-2 vote after a heated discussion that was largely led by Tamar Galatzan and President Richard Vladovic, supporters of the measure who are up for re-election next month.

“The public should have this information before the budget is approved,” Ratliff told the board, calling it a “reasonable request.”

She even offered to pay an outside firm to conduct the study using her own office’s discretionary funds, adding, “We cannot continue to spend large sums of money without a thorough understanding of the future …There’s a point, it exists, where we are not fiscally viable.”

Ultimately, Ratliff, a former teachers union chapter chair, was the lone vote against the health care package saying, “I’m going to vote no on this. And I’m going to continue to vote no on large monetary expenditures because I think we are going toward a cliff.”

The plan keeps benefits and premiums unchanged for the district’s 225,000 covered employees, retirees, and their eligible dependents as the price tag for the district goes up. By the end of 2015 the district expects to spend $1.029 billion, increasing to $1.233 in 2018.

Ratliff asked for a 10-year impact analysis detailing outcomes in several worst-case scenarios, including the effects of bankruptcy, on the district’s retirees and employees.

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Analysis: A deal with the teachers soon may carry a Kayser message

Bennett Kayser ULTA PACE* UPDATED

Could a deal between LA Unified and its teachers union, UTLA, be close at hand?

The answer is a definite maybe, judging by the accelerated schedule of meetings with the mediator trying to bring the sides together. Two more sessions are scheduled — today and tomorrow. 

If that’s a sign of progress leading to an agreement before the May 19 general elections, it suggests there might be a connection to the District 5 school board race between incumbent Bennett Kayser and the challenger who beat him in the primary, Ref Rodriguez.

OK, so it’s just a theory. But let’s play it out:

Here’s the working assumption: An agreement in the next few weeks reflects the possibility that the union wants to play it safe with the election, that it might view Kayser as vulnerable, unable to pull off the victory as he did four years ago when he won the seat after a second-place finish in the primary.

Kayser is the union’s strongest ally on the board. More than any other member, he has held the line against the rapid growth and popularity of charter schools in LA Unified. In whatever ideological split there may be among the board members on such issues as charters and reform efforts, Kayser has been UTLA’s best friend. He has also been a champion for early education and special needs education, which require additional instructional assets.

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UTLA files complaint against Alliance charters over unionization

UTLA* UPDATED

The LA teachers union, UTLA, has filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board, accusing Alliance College-Ready Public Schools of interfering with the union’s right to organize teachers in the 26 Alliance schools.

The complaint was filed last night, UTLA said in a press release that outlined a series of steps that the union says are disrupting efforts to bring the Alliance teachers under the UTLA umbrella. It accuses school administrators of “using coercive tactics and interfering with educators’ right to form a union.”

“Educators formed Alliance Educators United, affiliated with United Teachers Los Angeles, on March 13, 2015, to have a real voice in advocating for both themselves and their students,” the union said. “The teachers, counselors and other professional staff are seeking genuine due process and ‘just cause’ rights, and the right to bargain over conditions of employment.”

The complaint was filed Tuesday night with assertions that Alliance is prohibiting teachers from using their workplaces to meet with organizers and share information about unionizing.

“When teachers announced we were organizing a union, Alliance publicly stated that we, the teachers would be able to decide for ourselves free of coercion,” Elana Goldbaum, a history teacher at Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School, said in the union release. “But since that time they are trying to persuade teachers against unionization.”

Among the accusations cited by the union is Alliance’s use of “funds that could be used for student education to hire high-priced PR consultants, to create an anti-union website.” It further said Alliance is “sending a steady stream of anti-union letters and emails to educators, parents, and alumni. Even students have been exposed to the anti-union campaign through Alliance’s web site.”

Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report, “The educators at Alliance are trying to assert a democratically protected right to organize a union and the Alliance management is interfering and interfering in an illegal way.”

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Teachers planning another round of protests today as talks continue

Teachers at  Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School boycott a faulty meeting. (Credit: Twitter user @00dreday00)

Teachers at Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School boycott a faulty meeting. (Credit: Twitter user @00dreday00)

*UPDATED

A second round of protests is scheduled at LA Unified schools today as the district and its teachers union, UTLA, continue to lock horns over teacher pay raises, among other issues.

“We had full participation at several hundred schools for the first one, and we expect the same today,” UTLA spokeswoman Suzanne Spurgeon told LA School Report.

Mediation efforts yesterday failed to produce an accord although an agreement to accelerate talks by scheduling meetings for Thursday and Friday appeared as a sign of progress.

The union called the protests as part of its “Schools LA Students Deserve” campaign; Spurgeon said boycotts of faculty meetings and protests will be held at all LAUSD schools today after classes end.

UTLA president Alex-Caputo-Pearl didn’t return calls seeking comment, and Spurgeon referred to a March 24 statement released at the time of the first boycott and protest.

“We know the District has money available for new contract proposals that would move us closer to a fair bargaining agreement that is good for students and good for educators,” UTLA officials said in the statement.

The teachers union is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise, which would be the first in seven years; reduced class sizes and hiring more staff, including counselors, nurses and librarians. The district has countered with a 5 percent raise offer. The district says meeting the union’s demand would cost the district $800 million, an amount that would either bankrupt the district or cause layoffs and elimination of programs to compensate.

*Updated to include quote from Spurgeon

LA Unified files for NCLB waiver without teacher evaluation deal

teacher_evaluation_satisfactory* UPDATED

LA Unified met today’s deadline and filed an application for a No Child Left Behind waiver without one of the key requirements of the U.S. Department of Education — an agreement with the teachers union on a three-level teacher evaluation system.

If approved, the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver would clear the way for LA Unified to receive $171 million in federal funding.

While the absence of agreement with the union, UTLA, does not automatically disqualify the district or make it ineligible for federal dollars, Rick Miller, Executive Director of CORE, suggested today that the district’s incomplete proposal could jeopardize the district’s application.

“Non-compliance with this commitment, or any other commitment made in the School Quality Improvement plan, puts approval of the Waiver at risk,” he said in a statement.

In fact, Washington will not make final decisions on waivers for several more months, leaving open the possibility that LA Unified and UTLA could reach agreement within that time frame.

The union recognized as much today, issuing a statement late this afternoon saying, “UTLA is in continuing negotiations with the District and we see the CORE Waiver as one of many issues to be addressed in bargaining.”

Teacher evaluations have been part of the current contract negotiations between the district and the union, which are now in the hands of a federal mediator who is not scheduled to meet with the sides again until April 6 and April 15.

UTLA argues that a three-level evaluation system, one that would distinguish a “highly effective” teacher from those who merely meet standards or are below standard, paves the way for merit pay. The union is fighting to keep a two-level system in place.

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Even without evaluation agreement, LAUSD may not lose $171 million

evaluationDespite claims by Superintendent Ramon Cortines that LA Unified could lose $171 million in federal funding without an agreement with the teachers union on a teacher evaluation system, state officials say the money may not be at risk, at all.

For weeks, Cortines has urged UTLA to accept a proposal with a three-level overall teacher evaluation system — one of several conditions of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver program, that provides federal funding and allows districts to sidestep No Child Left Behind requirements. A two-level system had been in place through the 2012-2013 school year.

The deadline to submit the new CORE Waiver application is just days away, March 31.

But Hilary McLean, communications director for CORE, says the absence of an agreement on a three-tier system is not a deal breaker. Even without an agreement, “we believe that LAUSD will be in a position to submit an application,” she told LA School Report.

“This is also a somewhat iterative process,” McLean added, explaining that even after the district plans are submitted, “CORE is constantly in communication with the Department of Education so even as we meet certain deadlines on the calendar, we continue sharing information for their review purposes.”

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Divisions remain after UTLA, LAUSD meeting with state mediator

(Photo: UTLA Facebook page)

(Photo: UTLA Facebook page)

A mediator from the state’s labor board met for the first time yesterday with negotiators from LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, to move contract negotiations forward. But the result was a gulf between the sides that remains wide as ever.

How wide?

“At this time, the union’s economic demands remain $774 million dollars higher than the District’s offer,” LA Unified’s chief negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, said in a statement.

Also at issue is the fate of $171 million in federal revenue from a California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver, which requires that the two sides agree on a teacher evaluation system by March 31 that includes a minimum of three rankings. Without an agreement with UTLA, the district may be disqualified from receiving the money.

“The funds will be used to pay teachers to provide summer school instruction, after-school tutoring programs and other intervention services to students for the next three years. The union has not yet agreed to this proposal, leaving at-risk these vital school-site services to students,” Ekchian said.

ULTA has not yet issued any pubic statement about yesterday’s meeting and did not respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday’s meeting was the first of three legally mandated sessions with the mediator from the Public Employee Relations Board. The next two are scheduled for April 6 and April 15. They could be extended, and only the mediator can determine that the two sides are unable to reach a resolution.

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