UTLA to protest at schools this week; hundreds of charter parents object


The charter parents’ letter set up in UTLA’s lobby. (Credit: CCSA)

UTLA is helping parents organize protests on May 4 at schools throughout the district, and in a letter more than 500 charter school parents are asking to stop it.

The Reclaim Our Schools protest is part of a nationally scheduled demonstration for Wednesday, and UTLA says 80 cities and counties have signed up to rally against a proliferation of charter schools.

The national group, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, issued a statement explaining: “As public schools are increasingly threatened by a view of education that supports privatization, zero-tolerance discipline policies, less funding, and high-stakes standardized tests, AROS is fighting back with a broad vision of American public education that prioritizes racial justice, equity and well-resourced, world-class, public community schools.”

The national organization has schools from Pulaski County, Ark., to Tomahawk, Wis., ready to protest before school on Wednesday and then have the students and teachers walk in to the school to begin classes as scheduled. The organizers said they are objecting to “a national movement to Reclaim Our Schools from privatization efforts that will bankrupt public education, we will stand with Los Angeles parents, educators, students, administrators, and community members for fully funded public schools and call on corporate charter schools to pay their fair share to the district.”

Meanwhile, in front of the UTLA offices, an enlarged letter from charter school parents asked that the teachers union stop the protest. The letter was signed by 527 charter school parents and was put out for display at various entrances of the offices on Wilshire Boulevard.

“We are asking you to stop,” said the letter directed at UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl. “You plan to stage demonstrations at charter schools sharing campuses with district schools. If these actions are anything like the ones we’ve endured in the past, they will be threatening, disruptive and full of lies. We will be shouted at, maligned and disrespected, our children will ask us what they’ve done wrong, and their teachers will, as always, be expected to rise above it all.”

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Students, educators rally for public education across LAUSD

As part of demonstrations taking place at schools around LA Unified and in cities across the country, a group of roughly 100 protesters made up of parents, students, district leaders and politicians gathered outside Hamilton High School Wednesday morning to rally in support of public education.

“Every day at this school I’m exposed to someone with different experiences,” said senior class president Brittany Pedrosa. “The cultural diversity makes it so beautiful.”

Pedrosa’s fellow students talked about being at Hamilton with special needs, or in special programs like music, arts or Arabic language, with teachers and counselors who help them even after hours. They also talked about having class sizes of more than 40 students and not having enough resources. One student talked about coming over from Mexico at 6 years old with her sister.

Alex Caputo-Pearl

Alex Caputo-Pearl

“I remember coming home from school with my sister surrounded by my uncles helping me with English homework. Those were the hardest years of my life,” said Jessica Garcia. “Now I will be the first in my family to go to college.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the LA teachers union, UTLA, said that 40 cities throughout the country and 170 schools at LAUSD alone were participating in the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools demonstrations.

“I just got off the phone with the people in Chicago and this is happening all over the country where we are highlighting great programs in sustainable neighborhood community schools,” Caputo-Pearl said. “If billionaires want to be involved, they should not undermine programs, they should contribute their fair share in taxes.”

Caputo-Pearl was talking about the non-profit Great Public Schools Now program, which was started by the Broad Foundation and has announced a plan to expand the number of charter schools at LA Unified. Megan Baaske, representing Great Public Schools Now, was at Hamilton observing the event and handing media a statement saying, “Great Public Schools Now is an effort dedicated to expanding high-quality public schools, not privatizing them. We hope to work constructively with any group that shares our deep desire to improve education in Los Angeles, and we support all communities who are rallying for better schools.” Continue reading

20,000 expected to ‘walk in’ at LAUSD schools Wednesday morning

Alex Caputo-Pearl strike talks UTLA

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

More than 20,000 parents, students and teachers in LA Unified are expected to stage a “Walk-In” before school on Wednesday orchestrated by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools to protest charter expansion and call for greater investment in public education.

“We have coordinated this with the school district and the superintendent’s office,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which is leading the LA part of the nationwide protest.

In fact, Superintendent Michelle King will be attending one of the demonstrations at Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles along with school board president Steve Zimmer and vice president George McKenna as well as American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

The purpose of the demonstration, they said, is “to fight back corporate privatization and stand up for fully-funded public education; to reclaim the promise of public education in LA.”

Specifically, their mission is to protest the proposed Greater Public Schools Now (GPS Now), which plans a major expansion of school funding and an increase in charter schools for the area. “We reject Broad-Walmart’s plan to undermine LAUSD,” according to the mission statement. “We call on Broad and the Waltons to pay their fair share in taxes to support quality schools that serve all students.”

King issued a statement saying, “Great progress is taking place in our classrooms and schools, thanks to the thousands of talented and dedicated teachers in LA Unified. The United Teachers Los Angeles ‘Walk-in’ will take place before the start of the school day on Feb. 17, allowing our employees to celebrate their success without disrupting the teaching and learning process. We are grateful to our teachers and join with them in recognizing their pride and enthusiasm for their work.”

UTLA’s website included a sign-up list and offered information tools and flyers to print out at the 70 school sites.

The flyers they plan to hand out to parents, staff and community members state, “We stand together—parents, educators, students, school staff and community organizations—to send a strong message to policymakers and billionaires like Eli Broad that public education is NOT for sale. We are reclaiming our school and committing to work in solidarity to ensure that our school serves the needs of its community.”

Maria Palma was incensed when her child brought home a flyer asking her to attend a meeting after the demonstration at the San Jose Elementary and Highly Gifted Magnet School in Mission Hills. She complained to her school principal and district representatives.

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UTLA mails voting ballots asking members for dues hike

UTLA big red tuesdayAlex Caputo-Pearl, president of the LA teachers union, UTLA, has been warning for months of “dangers” ahead, imploring his members to dig deeper in their pockets to fight them. He will soon find out if the message resonates among the union’s 35,000 members, now that ballots have gone out, asking for a $19 monthly raise in dues.

Ballots were mailed on Jan. 15 and the counting begins on Feb. 10, with an announcement of the results expected shortly after.

The call to raise dues — by roughly 30 percent — was announced by Caputo-Pearl during his state of the union speech in August, and he has spent the last several months pushing hard on members by painting the struggles ahead as nothing less than a fight for UTLA’s existence.

“Our union is facing an unprecedented web of attacks that threaten the survival of public education and the educator union movement,” he wrote in the September issue of the union newsletter.

The threats Caputo-Pearl cites are coming from all directions — local, state and national.

Locally, LA Unified is threatening to slash health benefits to teachers as a means to deal with a coming budget deficit, while a massive charter expansion plan could also decimate UTLA’s membership.

Statewide, signatures are being gathered for a November ballot initiative that would eliminate defined benefit pensions for new public sector employee. This means new employees would contribute to 401(k) retirement accounts, which are “riskier,” according to UTLA. There is also the pending Vergara v. California appeal that, if upheld, essentially would make it easier to fire teachers and not require seniority to be considered during layoffs, among other blows to teacher job protections.

Nationally, the Friedrichs v. CTA, which was argued earlier this month before the U.S. Supreme Court, threatens public unions’ right to collect dues from nonmembers as part of their employment.

To make the case for the hike, Caputo-Pearl and his leadership team have pointed out that UTLA members pay low dues compared with other large teacher unions. According to the December issue of UTLA’s newsletter, members pay $63 per month, $41 less than New York City teaches pay and $40 less than nearby Pasadena teachers pay.


UTLA taking aim at ‘Broad-Walmart’ plan in national ‘walk-in’


UTLA protests outside of The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles.

The LA teachers union, UTLA, is planning to take part in a national “walk-in” event on Feb. 17 set to take place at schools in at least 30 cities, including Los Angeles.

The walk-in is being organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a national group of parent, youth and community organizations and labor groups whose stated goal  is “fighting for educational justice and equity in access to school resources and opportunities.”

The walk-in, according to UTLA’s website, will involve UTLA members, parents and students gathering outside of their school, “then they all walk into their schools together building solidarity amongst our members as they will feel the power of collective action. Walk-ins build relationships. Walk-ins build power. Walk-ins build hope!”

The website adds: “This action to RECLAIM OUR SCHOOLS will push back on the privatizing agenda and call for greater investment in public education and justice. UTLA is leading the local effort for this nationwide action by tailoring the walk-in to the needs of each school while also keeping in view the need for fully-funded and resourced public education.”

In his monthly column in the the UTLA newsletter, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the walk-in locally will have several agendas, including  show of opposition to the Great Public School Now initiative to expand charter schools in LA Unified. Due to the involvement of philanthropist Eli Broad and members of the Walton family, UTLA constantly refers to the initiative as the “Broad-Walmart” plan.

Caputo-Pearl wrote that the walk-in “is strategically aligned to influence the debate in the national presidential primaries. We will be making history as we move forward our local struggles in support of community schools and against Broad-Walmart—and make these struggles immensely more powerful by placing them in a national context.”

Broad charter plan faces heavy attack at LAUSD board meeting


Jackie Goldberg declares war outside the school board meeting.


The Broad Foundation plan to expand charter schools in LA Unified made an ominous debut before the LA Unified board yesterday as one opponent after another ripped into it as unwanted, unnecessary and destructive to the district and public education in general.

The widespread attack came in several forms after the board postponed voting on a resolution from Scott Schmerelson that would put the board on record as opposing the plan. The delay enabled the board to adjourn earlier so the members could reconvene their private discussions on finding a new superintendent.

“We have been here since 8 in the morning and will be meeting until about 11 tonight, not that I’m asking you to have sympathy,” said school board president Steve Zimmer, explaining to the audience why some resolutions were being delayed.

While no one from the Broad foundation or its offspring now developing the plan — Great Public Schools Now — was invited to speak, the effort was a target all day, illustrated in stark terms by former school board president Jackie Goldberg as she addressed a coalition of community organizations at an anti-charter rally outside district headquarters. “This is war! We need to do battle right now,” she said. “We don’t have the money, but we have the numbers, we have the people!”

Those remarks echoed much of what transpired inside the building, where one of the first orders of business was nine union leaders representing employees of the district, standing together and telling the board, “we affirm out commitment to the resolution,” as Juan Flecha, president the administrators union, put it. The group included Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, which has emerged as the staunchest opposition group to the GPSN plan.

Later, the board granted Schmerelson 10 minutes for a parade of supporters to speak, starting with several students from Roosevelt High School, who referred to the “Broad-Walmart plan,” a sure sign that their remarks were scripted by UTLA, the only group that consistently describes the effort in those terms.

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LA Unified’s union leaders unite to oppose Broad charter plan


Leaders of LAUSD unions unite against charter plan

Leaders of the nine unions that represent teaches, administrators and other staffers at LAUSD stood before the district board today to express a united front against the Broad foundation plan to create more charter schools in the district.

Flanked at the podium by the union leaders, Juan Flecha, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), told the board, “All of us and our respective unions see this single passion for public education and commitment for the district.” He expressed disappointment that school board member Scott Schmerelson‘s proposal against the Broad plan had been postponed until January in deference to more time needed to continue the search for the new superintendent.

Flecha said the union leaders stand in “support of the motion and it is important for the incoming superintendent to know where we stand, and we look forward to have the board pass it.” He added that he saluted Schmerelson’s braveness to bring the issue before the board.

Schmerelson issued a statement only hours before the school board meeting saying that “I remain extremely concerned about the issues outlined in the revised resolution, Excellent Public Education for Every Student, and I am grateful for all the input I have received about the future of our public schools.”

Flecha also took the time to salute outgoing superintendent Ramon Cortines, saying, “I want to salute and thank Ramon Cortines and honor him. His efforts have been heroic and his ability to listen and act accordingly is admirable.”

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Judge grants injunction against big LAUSD charter in battle with UTLA


UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction yesterday against Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the latest development in the effort by the LA teachers union, UTLA, to unionize Alliance teachers.

The injunction, which was sought by the California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), follows a temporary restraining order the judge issued in late October when he ordered Alliance to cease activities that PERB and UTLA claimed were blocking the unionization effort.

The injunction is another legal blow to Alliance, which is LA Unified’s largest charter organization with 27 schools and around 700 teachers who are currently not represented by any union. After PERB sided with UTLA, the union won the restraining order, and PERB took the rare legal step of going to court itself against Alliance, filing a formal complaint in August.

Alliance officials have made no secret of their opposition to its teachers’ unionizing and have maintained that their actions are legal. Alliance spokesperson Catherine Suitor asserted that PERB and the court based their rulings on inaccurate information provided by UTLA and that UTLA is using delay tactics in court because it has not garnered the support of a majority of Alliance teachers.

“The filing of unfair labor practices is a standard tactic in labor organizing, particularly when efforts are not accelerating at a rate deemed acceptable by union leaders,” Suitor said today in a statement to LA School Report. “Despite an intense year-long unionization campaign, the majority of Alliance teachers have shown no interest in allowing UTLA leadership to speak on their behalf.”

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Charter group tells LAUSD board contribution process was lawful


Eli Broad

The executive director of the state charter schools political action committee sent an email to the LA Unified school board and other district officials yesterday, offering a sharp response to a story in the Los Angeles Times that was highly critical of the group’s campaign finance reporting practices.

“I am reaching out to you to ensure that you have the facts, which are sadly neglected in this article,” wrote Gary Borden, executive director of California Charter School Association Advocates. “Unfortunately, the Times has decided to turn common and fully legal electoral practice into ‘gotcha’ politics. The article simply does not reflect the reality or the integrity of our electoral practices.”

The article highlighted how donors to a political action committee who funneled millions of dollars into this year’s LA Unified school board races were “shielded” from having their identify revealed until after the May 19 election. The donors included high-profile charter school supporters, including Eli Broad, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Carrie W. Penner of the Walton family.

At issue was the fact that donations were made to a Sacramento-based PAC, which then gave the money to a Los Angeles-based PAC that supported the election efforts of three CCSA-endorsed candidates. The article points out that if the contributions had been made directly to the local PAC, the donors’ names would have been revealed before the election.

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UTLA urging teachers to fight Broad plan with ‘success’ stories

EliBroadUTLAprotestIn a recorded robo-call sent out to teachers last night, seven UTLA leaders encouraged them to attend the LA Unified board meeting next week and relate positive things that are going on in their schools.

The union leaders, led by president Alex Caputo-Pearl, took turns encouraging teachers to remind the board that great things are happening all across the district, with Caputo-Pearl saying, “We’ve seen failures, and hundreds of successes that have not made the news.”

They cite the new effort by the Broad Foundation to expand charter schools in Los Angeles and, as one said, “Our enemies will take every chance they get to tell the world about our district’s shortcomings.”

The union leaders mention that the board will be deciding about “picking a fight” with the Broad plan, a reference to a resolution from Scott Schmerelson that urges the board to go on record opposing the charter plan.

The union leaders ask the teachers to stand up and briefly discuss “something you take pride in going on at your school, something that is right.”

For teachers can’t attend the board meeting, the union has posted on its website a section called “Stand Up for Our Schools,” where teachers can send photos and write stories about successes in math, science, family night events, cultural themed events and class projects.

At the bottom of the site, there’s a link that goes to the personal email of each board member and starts with: “Dear School Board Member, I am a teacher at (enter school name). Attached are some photos of the great things happening at our schools. I urge you to recognize, be proud of, invest in, and stand up for our school. None of these innovative programs were brought to you by billionaires.”

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Schmerelson revises anti-Broad measure — but unanimity uncertain

ScottSchmerelson1Scott Schmerelson has revised his LA Unified board resolution that attacks an outside group’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. A majority of the seven board members has expressed opposition to the plan.

But a shift in mission from the group — Great Public Schools Now, supported by the Broad Foundation and others — combined with the changed language in the resolution, suggests it might be more difficult for him to achieve a 7-0 vote from a board that includes several members supportive of charter schools.

The resolution will be voted on at the Dec. 8 board meeting. It is largely symbolic because state law provides school boards only a limited ability to deny legitimate charter applications.

In the resolution he introduced last month, Schmerelson called for a declaration that the school board “opposes the Broad Foundation plan.” It now says the board “stands opposed to external initiatives that seek to reduce public education to an educational marketplace and our children to market shares while not investing in District-wide programs and strategies that benefit every student.”

But officials of Great Public Schools Now say they have revised their plan to include investing in some traditional district schools, including pilots, magnets and other high-performing schools with large numbers of children receiving free and reduced-price lunch.

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Charter group expanding mission to include support for LAUSD schools

Anita Landecker

Anita Landecker

In what would appear to be a strategic shift, the organization leading an effort to open more charter schools in LA Unified now intends to expand its mission to support traditional public schools that serve low-income children.

The organization, incorporated as Great Public Schools Now, is an outgrowth of a plan by the Broad and other foundations to create enough new charter schools to serve half of the district student population within eight years.

The foundations’ initial plan, articulated through a draft proposal over the summer, did not include consideration of investment in traditional district schools. But the plan now under development has been widened to include a goal of investing in pilot, magnet and other   high-performing district schools that have large numbers of children receiving free and reduced-price lunch.

“In one of the early meetings, the idea was raised, and people said, ‘Definitely, let’s do it’ “ said Anita Landecker, the interim executive director of Great Public Schools Now. “I don’t know how yet; it hasn’t been worked out, but there is an interest in helping high-quality schools that serve low-income kids.”

The willingness of the group to invest in district schools comes in some measure as a response to widespread criticism of the original Broad plan. Opponents, including members of the district school board and the LA teachers union, UTLA, have attacked the proposal as dangers for public education that would cost the district programs and jobs and leave half the student population with inferior assets.

Board President Steve Zimmer, perhaps the most critical of the seven board members, dismissed it as a “some kids, not all kids” plan that he would fiercely oppose.

Landecker described the new approach as an effort that would blunt some of the criticism even as the major thrust of the effort remains adding charter schools to satisfy the growing public demand for them and reducing the long lists of students on waiting lists to get in.

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LAUSD unions silent over financial report predicting trouble ahead


UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

Spending cuts. Layoffs. Early retirement packages. Reductions in benefits.

These needs, which were among recommendations made by LA Unified’s independent Financial Review Panel on Tuesday, are the kind that would make any union leader lose sleep. But three full days since the doom and gloom report was presented at the LA Unified school board meeting, with recommendations that would hit the district’s employees hard, the unions have had little if anything to say about it — even after several board members described the need for an all-hands-on-deck collaboration to forestall financial instability.

Messages seeking comment from three of the district’s largest unions —  those representing the teachers, administrators and staff workers — produced only a response from SEIU Local 99, a statement that does not suggest it agrees or disagrees with the financial panel’s conclusions.

The union leaders had an early opportunity to respond. After the presentation, board President Steve Zimmer invited the district’s labor leaders to make any comments. Only Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, accepted the offer, but he used the opportunity to attack the Broad Foundation‘s proposed charter school expansion plan due to the big impact it would have on district enrollment.

Declining enrollment is one of the reasons the panel foresees a loss of revenue in the coming years, and while the Broad plan would hit the district’s enrollment in an enormous way, the panel’s report does not take it into consideration. Even if the Broad plan were cancelled tomorrow, the panel’s dire financial predictions remain.

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Lesbian teacher suing LAUSD for $12 million over discrimination

judgeA former LA Unified teacher is suing the district for $12 million, claiming it failed to protect her from abuse, harassment and discrimination because she is a lesbian.

Cathy Figel taught physical education at Marina del Rey Middle School for 13 years and claims to have endured anti-gay language, anti-gay graffiti scrawled in her work area; exclusion from some school activities, vandalism to her car and physical abuse by a student.

Though the lawsuit was filed in September of 2014, Figel has been seeking publicity recently, issuing a press release about her case through her law firm and also granting an interview to KCAL.

“To be exposed to anti-gay language is a challenge because, as a lesbian, when I first hear it, you know, emotionally I am angry,” Figel told KCAL. “I was supervising the locker room, and it was something to the effect of, you know, gotta watch that lesbian is looking at us.”

Figel claims the district and the LA Unified school board did not respond to her complaints and that she was encouraged not to openly identify as a lesbian. She also claims she was transferred to another school, which she views as a retaliatory action, and she eventually retired.

In statement to LA School Report, a district spokesperson said, “The District is committed to ensuring a hostile-free work environment for all employees. The District does not agree with the allegations or characterization of its actions, and is therefore vigorously defending this lawsuit.”

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Panel conveys dire warning, LAUSD board seems to get message


The front row are members of the Independent Financial Review Panel

An independent Financial Review Panel yesterday detailed drastic measures that LA Unified must take to remain afloat in what school board President Steve Zimmer calls a “perfect storm” of financial trouble for the district.

“There’s a fiscal cliff that is immediate if different decisions are not made,” warned Bill Lockyer, the former California attorney general and state treasurer and one of the all-volunteer panel that made the group’s presentation to a full house in the school board meeting on Tuesday.

“You will be out of $600 million by 2019,” said another member of the panel, Darline Robles, the former superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. “You will have to rein in certain expenditures.”

And Maria Anguiano, the vice chancellor for Business & Finance at University of California, Riverside, said the loss of 100,000 students over the past two years in the district means that the LAUSD staff should not be growing like it has, and that “10,000 lay-offs would be about level for the 100,000 loss of students.”

But the drama of the exchange was not so much the bad news the panel members were delivering, including strong recommendations to make across-the-board spending cuts — the board members were well aware it was coming. Rather, it was the board’s apparent sense of urgency to deal with it and the district’s labor partners utter silence when offered the opportunity to comment.

“Sacrifice will be much more important here than strategy,” said board vice president George McKenna. “What are we going to give up for the children?”

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JUST IN: Judge issues restraining order against Alliance in union battle

Alex Caputo-Pearl at a news conference

Alex Caputo-Pearl, President of UTLAUPDATE


A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against Alliance College-Ready Public Schools late yesterday, ordering its administration to cease stifling a unionization effort.

The LA teachers union, UTLA, is currently attempting to unionize the teachers at the charter school organization, which is LA Unified’s largest with 27 schools and around 700 teachers who are currently not represented by any union. Alliance has attempted to discourage the effort in ways that both UTLA and the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) claimed were illegal.

“It’s very rare for the courts to find it necessary to issue a TRO to protect teachers from abusive behavior by charter school managers,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “Alliance employs hard-working, dedicated educators who only want to improve their schools and advocate for their students. Instead of respecting their rights and treating them as professionals and valued employees, they’ve faced an onslaught of unfair and illegal actions. This behavior would be wrong in any workplace but is totally unacceptable in a publicly funded school setting.”

The temporary restraining order request to the court came last week from PERB, which had ruled in favor of UTLA’s complaints and filed a formal complaint in state court in August. A hearing had been set for Nov. 2 before an administrative law judge regarding the complaint. PERB’s arguments for a TRO and injunctive relief were outlined in a letter to a lawyer representing UTLA.

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Labor board seeking injunction over Alliance anti-union efforts


UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will be seeking an injunction in Los Angeles County Superior Court to stop what it says is illegal interference by officials at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools against a unionization effort by some of its teachers.

The LA teachers union, UTLA, is currently attempting to unionize the teachers at the charter school organization, which has 27 schools in the Los Angeles area and employs around 700 teachers who are currently not represented by any union.

Alliance leaders have been vigorously fighting the unionization efforts, and UTLA claimed those attempts went too far and violated state laws. PERB agreed, and in August filed a formal complaint in state court.

“It’s been pretty shocking what is happening at the Alliance schools,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “Alliance has played hardball and used illegal tactics inappropriate for any workplace and totally unacceptable in publicly funded charter schools. We are pleased the labor board acted swiftly and decisively. It was the right thing to do.”

A hearing has been set for Nov. 2 before an administrative law judge regarding the complaint. PERB’s intent to file an injunction was outlined in a letter to a lawyer representing UTLA.

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UTLA, parents angry over class sizes at LAUSD school in Palms

The LA teachers union, UTLA, organized a press conference at at Hamilton High School in Palms yesterday to draw attention to what it says is overcrowding in classrooms at the school.

The press conference featured parents, teachers and students.

“If we don’t get the quality education that we need to succeed, then we are being set up to fail,” said Karen Calderon, a Hamilton High student, according to NBC Los Angeles.

A new contract that UTLA signed with the district in the spring included some agreements on improving class size, but they were modest.  UTLA said in a press release that class sizes “have improved.” but are “still too high.”

“We commend LAUSD officials for working with us in contract talks and endorsing the importance of lower class size for our students, but now it’s time to put weight behind their words,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “Across LAUSD, thousands of students with high class sizes are faced with less-than-optimal learning conditions, and the District should take meaningful action now to do better for our kids.”

Click here or on the video link above to see the NBC report.

Union leaders, former LAUSD board president attack Broad charter plan

LaborLeadersWhile teachers protested a proposed charter expansion plan outside the LA Unified school board meeting yesterday, union leaders involved with the district and a former board president, spoke out against it inside.

On the street, about 100 teachers rallied against the effort by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that would more than double the number of charter school students in LA Unified over the next eight years. Some protestors wore masks of Broad, former superintendent John Deasy and members of the Walton family (of Walmart), who are also involved in the expansion effort. Some of the teachers sang to “I Will Survive” and chanted “Billionaires can’t teach our kids!”

Meanwhile, at the board meeting inside, a coalition of union leaders stood behind Max Arias, executive director of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, as he stood with Juan Flecha of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), representing principals, Alex Caputo-Pearl of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA); and other labor leaders. Arias gave an impassioned speech against Broad’s “secret charter plan to take public out of public schools.”

Referring to difficulties parents had in Philadelphia when the charter schools took over traditional schools, he said, “Students will have to leave and go far away to go to school, and there will be a loss of arts and music education, a loss of skilled cafeteria workers and fewer adults at every campus.”

With a capacity crowd of more than 150 in the meeting room, Arias challenged the Broad Foundation to change direction. He read the foundation’s education mission statement to help all children and said, “We invite Eli Broad to become part of the solution and join the district and build on the success of the district. Not politicize and privatize it.”

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Multiple rallies gather early for LAUSD school board meeting

GreenDotProtestors and supporters of a variety of causes started gathering at 8 a.m. today for the 1 p.m. LA Unified school board meeting, facing intense heat outside and an overcrowded meeting room inside.

Among the earliest to appear were 50 people with green shirts and buttons showed up for the Green Dot Public Schools, which will have four charter schools before the board for five-year contract renewals.

“We have another bus load of people coming, we have about 75 parents, teachers and administrators coming, and we know we have to get here early because the board room is small,” said Larry Fondation, director of community engagement for Green Dot. Capacity at the LA Board meeting room is 155.

Some came prepared with folding chairs, umbrellas and laptops, but by 11 a.m. it was sweltering outside. When doors opened to the blaring sun, a few people came inside for the air conditioning, but school police wouldn’t let them sit there once the board members disappeared into closed session.

Jefferson Crain, executive officer of the board, came out to look at the long line early in the day and told the police, “Make sure they stay out of the heat.”

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