Caputo-Pearl: Fletcher made right decision, stepping aside

Warren Fletcher

Warren Fletcher

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the presumptive next president of UTLA,  said today that current president Warren Fletcher made the right decision by expressing a willingness to step aside in the race to lead the second largest teachers union in the nation.

“We look forward to the opportunity to expand the base of support behind an approach where UTLA leads the fight for quality schools and respect for educators through powerful organizing and coalition-building,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report.

In the recent union election of 10 candidates or president, Caputo-Pearl, head of the left-leaning “Union Power” slate, ran away with first-place in the first round of voting, gathering twice as many votes as Fletcher, even though only a quarter of the membership cast ballots.

As the top vote-getters in the first round, but neither with a majority, they are now competing in a second round of voting.

Candidates in the Union Power group swept the first round, picking up majority wins in nearly every leadership position within UTLA. The shift in Union Power suggests a major change ahead in union strategies and policies. Throughout his campaign Caputo-Pearl advocated for more aggressive actions on behalf of teachers, including a strike to secure a new contract for the union that would include a raise for the first time in seven years.

“We are glad that President Fletcher recognizes that the membership sees the need to move in this direction,” Caputo-Pearl said, adding, “The more we can be united behind this approach, the more successful we will be.”

Fletcher on Sunday told the LA Times he will no longer actively campaign for reelection because “only a fool fights in a burning house.”

In an interview with LA School Report today he expanded: “We are facing a lot of unprecedented outside challenges — attacks on our profession. We are in a situation where we need to make sure that we are as strong as we can be and that’s part of what’s driving the decision on my part.”

If he loses, Fletcher said he’ll return to the classroom.

“It helps that I like teaching,” he said laughing. “Remember, I went to college and studied to be a teacher. This three year period has been the exception and I’m going back to the thing that is my profession.”

UTLA unsure of financial support for teachers in board race

imagesWinning endorsement is one thing. Winning financial support is quite another.

UTLA, the teachers union, has endorsed three candidates in the June 3 special election to fill LA Unified’s District 1 board seat, all three with ties to the union: Rachel Johnson and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill are teachers, and Hattie McFrazier is a former teacher.

The head of UTLA’s political action committee, PACE, said the union will promote all three on the ballot equally, but that support might not come with a lot of union financial support.

“We believe in all of the teachers we’ve endorsed,” Marco Flores told LA School Report. “But the truth is, whoever gets elected won’t be there very long.”

Flores says the timing of the special election in June is too close to the regular school board elections in 2015, when four seats will be up for grabs, including District 1 again. And campaigning for those races, he said, will begin on Labor Day — just shortly after the new District 1 member would take a seat on the board if the election goes to an Aug. 12 runoff.

The question before UTLA and PACE, he said, is: “How much are we going to ask for, from our friends, from our affiliates, from the different groups that we get money from, for this particular race when nine months from now we’re going to be having another four races?”

Next year’s elections will be for board districts 1, 3, 5, and 7.

So far two board members have declared their intention to run as incumbents: Board president Richard Vladovic (7) will be seeking a third term and Bennett Kayser (5) is going after a second.

Barbara Jones, Chief of Staff for board member Tamar Galatzan (3), told LA School Report last week, “She hasn’t announced yet whether she is running.”

UTLA raises may be on the horizon but not negotiations

Vivian Ekchian, LA Unifie'd chief labor negotiator

Vivian Ekchian, LA Unifie’d chief labor negotiator

Within LA Unified’s proposed budget for 2014-2015, Superintendent John Deasy includes a line item for teacher raises.

However, in the absence of a contract for the last three years between the district and the teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, labor talks remain at a complete standstill, raising questions about just how much remains “TBD.”

“Neither UTLA nor the District has initiated negotiations for any re-opener or successor agreements at this time,” Vivian Ekchian, chief labor negotiator for LA Unified, told LA School Report.  

Teachers are working on a temporary contract. UTLA’s last agreement with the district ended in 2011, and Ekchian says their contract is extended on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s difficult to estimate a timeline with an ending date, but it certainly will be very sensitive to the needs of our employees,” Ekchian said.

UTLA is seeking a 17.6 percent salary increase over an unspecified amount of time, though the average contract lasts three years.

“It’s been more than a year since California voters approved Proposition 30, the tax increase that is bringing millions of new dollars into the District,” UTLA said in a statement shortly after voting for the salary boost.

The state’s new school Local Control Funding Formula is also generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue over the next seven years.

Union members last received a cost of living increase in 2007. They also agreed to 16 furlough days throughout the recession, with “each day equaling about half a percent of pay,” according to UTLA President Warren Fletcher.

Deasy, yesterday, thanked all district employees for their “sacrifices” during the budget crisis.

After walking the school board through his budget, he added, ”Many employees have not had raises in six to seven years and it’s important to address that.”

UTLA sends out ballots in runoff for president

UTLA-Union-Election-GraphicBallots were dropped in the mail today to the 35,000 members of the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA), to decide who will win the top job of the second largest teachers union in the country, in a second-round runoff.

It’s down to two candidates from the original field of ten: between current president Warren Fletcher, considered a moderate, and left-leaning candidate Alex Caputo-Pearl. Pearl not only pulled in twice the votes of Fletcher in the first round (although not the 50 percent needed to prevent a run-off), but made a clean sweep with his slate called Union Power, claiming a win for almost every internally elected seat which included dozens of positions.

(See list of Union Power endorsements, here. See full list of the results from the first round, here.)

In this runoff, which ends when members send their ballots in at the end of April, there are just three seats up for grabs: UTLA president, Valley East Area Chair and Valley West Area Chair.

While only a quarter of the members participated in the first round, interest could pick up as it did in 2011 when Warren Fletcher came from behind to beat his opponent Julie Washington in the runoff.

Unions have lukewarm response to Deasy’s new budget proposal

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy unveiling budget

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy unveiling budget

The budget proposal LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy will present to the school board tomorrow has won lukewarm responses from three of the district’s biggest labor partners — the teachers union (UTLA), the principals union (AALA) and the support workers union (SEIU Local 99).

After reviewing documents the district released on Friday, each group expressed cautious optimism that Deasy’s fiscal vision for the next three years — boosted by new money from the state — is heading in the right direction but with more that needs to be done.

In short, because the proposal includes new hires and at least a suggestion of raises for current employees, the unions viewed the proposal as potentially good news for their members.

“Superintendent John Deasy’s proposed 2014-2015 budget does not go far enough to help the District’s students or educators, but it is a start,” UTLA said in a statement that seemed to capture the consensus response.

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents principals and other school administrators, said, “Based on the limited information AALA has to date, it appears the superintendent will bring budget recommendations to the board that will begin to restore services and personnel which are in support of schools and students which were markedly reduced and eliminated over the last six years.” Continue reading

After a run for UTLA chief, Mottus now trying for Congress

Kevin Mottus

Kevin Mottus

Fresh off a run for UTLA president, where he secured 53 votes to finish eighth among 10 candidates, Kevin Mottus is moving on: He’s now running for US Congress.

Mottus is one of 21– count ‘em, 21! – lining up to take Henry Waxman’s seat in the 33rd Congressional District, which covers some of LA’s swankiest neighborhoods along the coast -  from Malibu through the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Waxman has held the seat since 1975.

Mottus’s competition includes such political heavy hitters as California state senator Ted Lieu and Wendy Greul, who has had 10 months to recover from her loss in the mayor’s race. There’s also journalist and radio co-host Matt Miller and spiritual teacher and author, Marianne Williamson. On her website announcing her bid, Williamson says, “Anyone who thinks religion doesn’t have anything to do with politics doesn’t understand religion.”

Mottus told LA School Report his platform will be based on broad environmental issues, though he will be returning to a familiar refrain:

“I’ll still be talking about the dangers of Wifi,” he said earlier this week. “People just don’t know that it’s causing cancer and people are dying. We have to get the word out.”

An attempt to get UTLA’s endorsement in the congressional race failed Wednesday night. A  motion to endorse Mottus was voted down, 91 to 17.

Mottus is not the first UTLA presidential hopeful to dabble with Congress. His colleague and former opponent, Innocent Osunwa, was a write-in candidate for California’s 32nd Congressional District in 2008. He lost to Democrat Hilda Solis, 130,042 to 8. Osunwa finished seventh in the UTLA race, with 60 votes.

3 teachers get UTLA endorsements despite low money support

Last night's vote

Last night’s vote

By voting to endorse three candidates last night for the LA Unified’s District 1 board seat, the UTLA House of Representatives chose to back two teachers and a former teacher who have raised a combined $8,440 for their election efforts.

While that honors Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, Rachel Johnson and the former instructor, Hattie McFrazier, their meager financial support so far, compared with the money leaders, Alex Johnson ($113,051) and Genethia Hudley-Hayes ($56,070), could mean an even greater disadvantage for the union. Hendy-Newbill raised $4,836; McFrazier, $3,604; Johnson, $0.

With its three choices long-shots, as measured by donor contributions, the union is in jeopardy of losing the kind of sure support it always had in Marguerite LaMotte, whose death in December created the vacancy.

Both Johnson and Hudley-Hayes and, to an extent George McKenna, the third-place finisher in money raised ($45,948), are not viewed as rubber-stamp voters for the union, which means if any of them wins, key board votes could easily go 4-3 against union interests.

In a final vote by the union reps, the three-way endorsement prevailed, 101 to 31. The remaining candidate, Omarosa Manigault, a substitute teacher, has raised $4,450 but failed to win union backing.

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Breaking News: UTLA endorses 3 for vacant District 1 race

Sherlett Hendy-Newbill

Sherlett Hendy-Newbill

The UTLA House of Representatives tonight voted to endorse a former teacher and two current teachers in the LA Unified District 1 board race.

The vote mirrored the recommendation of the union’s Board of Directors, which voted last week for endorsing former district teacher Hattie McFrazier and the two current teachers,  Sherlett Hendy-Newbill and Rachel Johnson.

The administrators union has previously endorsed George McKenna, and the school staff union, SEIU Local 99, is expected to endorse next week.

‘Union Power’ wins big but most UTLA members didn’t vote*

UITLA's election drew only 23 percent of the membership

UITLA’s election drew only 23 percent of the membership

UTLA is headed in a new direction —  mostly veering to the left.

Despite a low turnout, Union Power candidates claimed victory today, with wins in nearly every leadership position within UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers union.

The progressive group — which plans to call for a strike if a new teacher contract can’t be negotiated soon — won outright in races for NEA Affiliate vice president, AFT Affiliate vice president, Elementary VP, Secondary VP, Treasurer, and Secretary. The race for President will be decided in a run-off pitting Union Power leader, Alex Caputo-Pearl, against incumbent Warren Fletcher.

“This shows that our members want UTLA to pro-actively and assertively fight against the attacks on the profession, while fighting for a clear vision of quality schools that we build through aggressive organizing with members, parents, and community,” Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

Although he fell short of getting 51 percent of votes in the first round, Caputo-Pearl says he’s confident he’ll come out on top in the end.

“The organizing that led to these successes today,” he said, “will propel us to victory in the fight for a pay increase, for class size reduction and increases in staffing, against teacher jail, and around all of the other issues that are critical in public education today.”

Fletcher received fewer than half the votes Caputo-Pearl captured. He responded to the news in a statement, saying, “The results of the first round of the UTLA election were fairly unambiguous. The voting membership has decisively signaled the desire for a change in direction. To assert otherwise would be to deny an obvious reality.”

“I am confident that UTLA, whether under Mr. Caputo-Pearl’s leadership or mine, will move forward into the next three years with the common goal of fighting for what is best for students, for schools, and for the classroom,” he added.

John Lee, Senior Executive Director of Teach Plus in Los Angeles, told LA School Report that Union Power “was clearly the best organized among the different groups,” evidenced by their ability to get the endorsement of more than 250 UTLA chapter chairs. Continue reading

Caputo-Pearl, Fletcher moving on to runoff in UTLA election

Alex Caputo-Pearl

Alex Caputo-Pearl

All that criticism of Warren Fletcher as a weak UTLA president and of Alex Caputo-Pearl as a campaign rules scofflaw apparently didn’t make much difference.

They emerged as the top two vote-getters for the president of United Teacher Los Angeles in the first round of voting in the union’s 2014 election campaign and are now headed to a runoff. The survivor wins a three-year term.

While Caputo-Pearl, head of the left-leaning “Union Power” slate, ran away with first-place, collecting 3,408 votes (48%), Fletcher came in second with 1,508 votes (21.2%), and not far behind was Gregg Solkovits, the current secondary vice president, who had 1,142 votes (16%).

Bill Gaffney led the remaining candidates with 323 votes.


Warren Fletcher, current president of UTLA

Only 7,099 votes were cast for the 10 men running for president, representing 22 percent of the 31,000 member union. voting members.

The results are pending challenges and must be certified by the UTLA Board to be official. A challenge is likely – opponents have accused Caputo-Pearl of violating union election rules by campaigning during school hours without permission. (Read story here).

Superintendent John Deasy tells LA School Report that the principal who gave Alex Caputo-Pearl permission to take unpaid time off to campaign has been disciplined. The LA Times reports that Caputo-Pearl is facing discipline for taking a leave of absence to campaign. (Read story here).

The union said ballots for the runoff will be mailed out on April 7. Only the race for the presidency is going to a runoff. For all other offices and positions, winners had a majority vote. Once all election cycles are complete, the new Officers and Board of Directors members take office July 1, 2014, and will serve until June 30, 2017.

Complete election results can be found here.

UTLA board endorses 3 teachers for LA Unified seat, not Omarosa

UTLA logoThe board of directors of the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, voted last night to recommend that the union endorse three teachers for the vacant District 1 board seat. The special election is June 3.

In recommending Sherlett Hendy-NewbillRachel Johnson and Hattie McFrazier, a retired teacher, the board chose to withhold endorsing the fourth teacher in the race, Omarosa Manigault, who is a substitute teacher.

The board’s recommendations now go before the UTLA House of Representatives March 26 for a final decision on whom, if anyone, the union endorses. To win a UTLA endorsement, a candidate needs 60 percent of the representatives’ vote.

If a runoff is needed, the union will reconsider its options.

The other three candidates for the seat are George McKennaAlex Johnson and Genethia Hudley-Hayes.

Garcia, UTLA candidate for president, fired as LAUSD sub

UTLA-Union-Election-GraphicThe field of candidates for UTLA president may be reduced by one.

David Garcia, one of nine men challenging the incumbent, Warren Fletcher, has been dismissed as an LA Unified teacher, putting his candidacy in limbo.

Garcia confirmed his firing in an email circulated on Friday and blamed it on his challenging the district on an issue involving other candidates’ being able to campaign during school hours. A district official in the human resources division confirmed the dismissal.

But whether that means Garcia must withdraw as a candidate remains uncertain.

Mike Dreebin, co-chair of the UTLA Election Committee, said in an email that Garcia was an eligible candidate as of the deadline to submit nomination forms and the committee has no confirmation yet that Garcia was fired.

No immediate action would be taken, he explained, because Garcia still has several options, including the right to file a grievance with UTLA and seek legal action against the district.

Dreebin said if Garcia makes it into a runoff for president, “the matter will be dealt with then.”

“Ultimately,” he wrote, “it will be up to the UTLA Board of Directors to determine what to do if a candidate wins, but has been fired and is no longer an employee of the District. The Board of Directors formally ‘seats’ new Officers, and Board of Director representatives, after the results of the elections are presented to them by the UTLA Elections Committee.”

The district did not immediately respond to an effort to learn why Garcia, a substitute, was fired.

Previous post: Deasy says principal who ok’d campaign leave was disciplined

ULTA super PAC holds off on LAUSD school board endorsement

UTLAPACE endorsementIn an unusual move, PACE, the political arm of the second-largest teachers union in the country, is sitting on the sidelines for the moment, after voting last night to “recommend no endorsement” in the upcoming LA Unified school board race to fill the vacant seat in South Los Angeles, District 1.

At the endorsement meeting at union headquarters, the PACE committee interviewed 5 of the 7 candidates – George McKenna, Sherlett Hendy Newbill, Alex Johnson, Rachel Johnson and Hattie McFrazier  — and reviewed answers to a questionnaire sent out prior to the meeting. Two other candidates, Genethia Hudley-Hayes and Omarosa Manigault, were not invited to appear.

In the end, the committee voted for no recommendation, according to a source at UTLA.

The endorsement process next goes to the March 19 meeting of the UTLA board of directors, which itself can issue a recommendation for the UTLA House of Representatives. The representatives meet on March 26  as the final forum when an endorsement can be made.

That endorsement can often be an important one. With the city imposing campaign limits on direct contributions, school board elections often depend on the involvement of super PAC committees.

The UTLA super PAC typically plays a big role. Last year it activated a field operation and spent millions of dollars for direct mail pieces and phone banks on behalf of its candidates. The other big union player in the race is expected to be SEIU Local 99, the union of school support staff, which will decide on its endorsements later this spring.

Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, AALA, the union representing principals and other administrators, endorses but spends little money.  Reform groups, which also spent millions last year, have not yet picked a candidate to support.

The District 1 seat became vacant when longtime school board member, Marguerite LaMotte died in office late last year.


E4E poses questions, 10 candidates for union chief answer

avatars-000054535429-qf5zpr-t200x200Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher advocacy group comprised of members of the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, has developed an interactive election guide focusing on the 10 candidates running for UTLA president.

The guide poses four questions and provides audio responses from each candidate.

The interviews were conducted earlier this week and are included in a larger package of information about the candidates and the election.

Teachers union plans leaflet push for raises, smaller classes

UTLA logoThe Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, is planning to blanket the district with leaflets tomorrow to build support among parents for smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools and raises.

With help from health and human services workers, teachers intend to pass out informational leaflets before and, in some cases, after school.

The leaflets ask parents to contact LA Unified board members to push for using new tax dollars in the classroom.

“Students and LAUSD employees all suffered during the recession years,” UTLA President Warren Fletcher said in a statement. Now that the District has the money, it’s time to right some wrongs. It is wrong when school librarians are laid off and campus libraries are closed; when schools do not have a full time nurse; and when there are not enough mental health professionals to serve student needs. It’s wrong when schools are unsanitary and unsafe.”




LA Unified teachers union race gets national attention

Ed-Week-Teacher-Logo-SquareWhile LA School Report has been paying close attention to the elections taking place at UTLA, the nations second largest teachers union, the competition hasn’t attracted much outside attention – that is until recently.

Now, education blogger, Anthony Cody at Edweek-Teacher, has launched a series of Question-and-Answers with the 10 candidates vying for union president, each being asked the same questions.

So far four have been published:
Gregg Solkovits
Kevin Mottus
Alex Caputo-Pearl

Bill Gaffney

See full series here: Edweek: Living in Dialogue


Misunderstood election rules upsetting UTLA candidates

Alex Caputo-Pearl, far right, at UTLA Forum last week

Alex Caputo-Pearl, far right, at UTLA Forum last week

Recent campaign appearances by Alex Caputo-Pearl at schools around LA Unified have ignited a dispute among candidates for UTLA offices who say election rules — such as they are  – are being applied unfairly. The conflict has also brought into focus how misunderstood the rules seem to be.

The source of the infighting is what some candidates perceive as their right to campaign at school campuses during working hours.

The conflict arose last week after Caputo-Pearl, leader of the Union Power slate and one of the perceived front runners for UTLA president in unseating incumbent Warren Fletcher, said his principal at Frida Kahlo High School had granted him about 12 days of unpaid personal leave to visit 30 schools to campaign teachers to vote for him.

That prompted several of his opponents to raise the possibility that his actions were illegal by district election rules. They were, according to Leticia Figueroa, LA Unified’s director of employee performance accountability, who said a school principal has no say in the decision.

She told LA School Report that permission can only be granted by the district Human Resources department and “the employee did not follow district procedures in obtaining appropriate permission for an unpaid leave.”

“There is no paperwork on file with the district’s HR department,” she said. The “paperwork” is a district form that must be completed in requesting an unpaid leave. It lists 15 possible reasons, and none is for election campaigning although one is vague enough to provide a rationale for it — “Personal Leave, not for family illness.”

For its part, UTLA officials say that by union campaign rules Caputo-Pearl’s has done nothing wrong. The union’s labor agreement with the district lists seven reasons for unpaid leave, but none explicitly covers union campaigning.

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UTLA takes demands for raises and hiring to parents

UTLA Leafletting Campaign The teachers union is taking its demands to the school yard.

On Feb. 28, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is staging a coordinated leafleting campaign, directed at parents during drop-off, to fight for more pay and increased hiring.

Dubbed, “Time for Kids” the campaign is set to take place before the first bell on Friday.

“We are taking our fight for an overdue raise, smaller class sizes and fully staffed schools to parents and the community through leafleting efforts,” says the union website. “Employees have the right to pass out materials during non-working/duty-free times.”

It is unclear whether laws that restrict political activity and school property would apply in this situation. We are awaiting a response from LA Unified.

Previous Posts: Governor Brown’s budget pumps billions more into school funding; Teachers union offers reasons for pay hike demandIn forum, UTLA president candidates discuss big ideas — and a strike

UTLA candidates hit YouTube with stump speeches

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 11.11.08 AMWith ballots going in the mail next week, Los Angeles area teachers will start a long, internal election process that could have a big impact on the future of the teachers union (UTLA), one of the most powerful in the country.

The competition for the top job of UTLA president, which pays north of $100,000 a year, is tough. There are nine challengers (see our rundown here) hoping to prevent the incumbent president Warren Fletcher from taking a second term.

To help members decide, UTLA has posted brief campaign video statements on a YouTube channel, not only for president, but for all of the union positions in contention.

For those who would rather read about the candidates, the special election edition of the union newspaper, the United Teacher, has printed candidate statements and ballot instructions.

Previous Posts: UTLA candidate forum, issues break out within the mudslingingIn forum, big ideas — and a strike,  In race to run powerful teachers union: ideology up for grabs

At UTLA forum, a few issues break out within the mudslinging

Warren Fletcher, Leonard Segal, Kevin Mottus and Alex Caputo-Pearl at the forum last night

Warren Fletcher, Leonard Segal, Kevin Mottus and Alex Caputo-Pearl at the forum last night

The third UTLA presidential forum held at union headquarters last night was the most well attended — about 70 members made it for the two hour question and answer session — and it also proved to be the most contentious and mud-slingingest.

For any given question, only a handful of the 10 candidates managed to stay on topic, but a few themes emerged that kept the all-male field focussed.

A discussion on how the union should address the continued growth of charter schools elicited strong reactions.

Gregg Solkovits, Alex Caputo-Pearl, and Bill Gaffney agreed that there’s no turning back the tide on the charter school movement within LA Unified and therefore UTLA must aggressively pursue efforts to organize charter school teachers.

Gaffney, “a charter member of [UTLA’s] charter organizing committee,” said charter school teachers are easily convinced that joining UTLA is much better deal for them. Although, he conceded, it is “a very scary process” that involves a lot of secrecy for teachers with no legal protections.

Solkovits said, “When charter schools are organized,they become much less attractive to our enemies.”

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