UTLA making clear to LAUSD board what it wants in next superintendent

UTLAAn open and transparent search, background as an educator and under no circumstances someone from the Broad Academy. Those are the three major criteria that UTLA wants in the next LAUSD school superintendent.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, told the LA School Report that he has made it known to the school board the kind of superintendent teachers want in a successor to Ramon Cortines.

“So far we have been advocating these three issues,” he said. “We want the process to be transparent and open and understandable. It can’t be a move from the corner office to the front office like John Deasy was last time around and without a process. That didn’t work out well.”

The search process is now underway, with the board set to pick an executive search firm on Sunday. There’s a deadline to the extent that Cortines says he want to step down by December. At the outside, the board wants a successor in place before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Once the finalists are chosen, Caputo-Pearl is advocating public meetings where educators, parents and the community can ask the candidates questions and voice concerns. “We need to see how they get to engage with folks,” he said.

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UTLA cites working conditions, health benefits as major concerns

UTLA97The first big step was getting a pay raise. That happened earlier this year. So what’s next for UTLA?

United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl says extensive input from teachers over the summer points to conditions in the classroom and the future of health benefits as among the issues most important to the union membership. He also said UTLA will strive to unionize more charter schools.

“Everyday teaching and learning conditions tend to be something that we hear a lot from our members,” Caputo-Pearl told the LA School Report. “They want to come into their classroom and do what they do and work with young people and not have to deal with ceiling tiles that are falling, or class sizes that are too big, or an administrator that refuses to follow basic contractual guidelines. Basic conditions are a concern.”

The other big concern voiced by teachers is the potential erosion of health benefits that have helped teachers to LA Unified. The benefits package LA Unified offers is among the most robust of any district in the state, including free lifetime benefits for retirees and their dependents.

“There is obviously a very well-funded national movement to attack public sector workers and health benefits that are associated with public sector workers,” Caputo-Pearl said. He talked about billionaire John D. Arnold who he said is “specifically intent to fund efforts to attack pensions, attack health benefits and retirement. It’s a very well-funded effort that our members are concerned about.”

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LA teachers planning campaign to oppose charter expansion

Alex Caputo Pearl LAUSD Board meeting-9.9.14 charter

UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl

* UPDATED

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the teachers union is planning an aggressive campaign to oppose Eli Broad and other wealthy foundation leaders who have announced plans for a major expansion of charter schools in LA Unified.

In a wide-ranging interview that focused on the state of charters in the district, Caputo-Pearl was highly critical of the effort, asserting that charters are undermining the ability of traditional district schools to maintain a quality education for all students.

“We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

The charter expansion plans involve three major foundations that have been active for years in education reform across the country: the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation. They said they intend to create enough charter schools in eight years to serve as many as half of LA Unified students.

The California Charter School Association has consistently denied that there are separate rules for charters, pointing to the fact that charters have to demonstrate academic achievement and financial stability to remain operating. Many charters do employ non-union teachers, but UTLA in recent years has succeeded in unionizing a number of them.

Caputo-Pearl’s targeting of Deasy evolves from Deasy’s association with Broad before and after he served as LA Unified’s superintendent. Before he was hired in 2011, Deasy attended the Broad Academy, which prepares senior executives for roles in urban education. He resigned as superintendent last year after problems with the iPad program, leading to a federal investigation of the bid process. Currently, he is a consultant for The Broad Center, a separate non-proft organization that helps train future education leaders.

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Commentary: Challenges await for wave of new LAUSD charters

Eli and Edythe Broad charters

Eli and Edythe Broad

It was a bombshell of a story on Saturday, the LA Times reporting that a group of foundations is exploring plans to expand the number of charter schools within LA Unified to serve many beyond the 100,000 students who now attend charters in the district.

What would that mean exactly? Unclear for the time being. No details were included, and charter officials talked about the effort only in the most general terms. As close to specifics was an unidentified source telling the Times that the goal was to enroll half of LA Unified’s 650,000 students in charters within eight years.

Today, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, one of the participating groups along with the Keck and Walton Family Foundations, said the guiding force behind the effort was to satisfy parents of children in low-performing schools who desire more and better educational choices.

“L.A. families still want more high-quality public school options in their neighborhood,” the foundation said in an email to LA School Report. “Too many of our school children still aren’t getting the quality of education they deserve, which is why tens of thousands of students are currently on public charter school waiting lists. We are in the early stages of exploring a variety of ideas about how to help give all families—especially in low-income communities of color—access to high-quality public schools and what we and others in the philanthropic community can do to increase access to a great public school for every child in Los Angeles.”

What the public response will be when any official announcement is made is unclear — but from some sectors, it’s not hard to guess.

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 Alliance charters says some its teachers ‘feel harassed’ by UTLA

AllianceAlliance College-Ready Public Charter Schools said today the group violated no laws over unionization efforts and asserted that some Alliance teachers “feel harassed by UTLA’s communications tactics.”

Catherine Suitor, Chief Development & Communications Officer of Alliance, said in a statement to LA School Report the charter group looks forward to arguing its case before the state Public Employees Relations Board on Aug. 21 in response to charges by LA Unified’s teachers union.

“We respect the rights of our teachers to organize a union, and we also respect the rights of those teachers who do not want a union – and we repeatedly state that fact,” Suitor wrote. “Our teachers have freely expressed their opinions on the issue. We have received legal counsel on everything we’ve done as it is relates to the unionization efforts as our goal is to be fully transparent and within the letter of the law.”

The union’s accusations are detailed in two complaints (here and here) to PERB.

“We absolutely disagree with UTLA’s assertion of anything different, and we will defend our position with PERB,” Suitor added. “ On the contrary, we’ve heard from a number of teachers that they feel harassed by UTLA’s communications tactics to strong arm them to join a union that they have no interest in being a part of.”

Alliance is the largest charter group operating in LA Unified, with 27 schools serving 12,000 low-income students.

William Morales, a teacher at Alliance Susan and Eric Smidt Technology High School, said in the statement, “There has been a lopsided discussion about unionization at Alliance schools. We have received a doubled amount of information from the union to our work emails and mailboxes, leafleting at our schools and during our professional development, in comparison to Alliance’s outreach.”

Morales added, “However, we’ve had conversations pro and against unionization across the entire staff email list. I think it’s healthy to hear and discuss all sides – with equity – so we can make an educated choice.”

 

 

UTLA outlines accusations against Alliance for anti-union efforts

UTLA-graphicWith a hearing now scheduled for Aug. 21, LA Unified’s teachers union, UTLA, will have the chance to argue before a neutral party that Alliance College-Ready Public Charter Schools, violated state education law by blocking the union’s efforts to bring Alliance teachers into its membership.

The union’s accusations are detailed in two complaints (here and here) that were submitted to state Public Employee Relations Board. Alliance is the largest charter group operating in LA Unified, with 27 schools serving 12,000 low-income students.

The unionization efforts at Alliance schools, which began earlier this year, have touched off the latest proxy war in LA Unified between the union and charter schools, which typically hire non-union teachers. While the faculty at some charter schools within the district have joined ranks with UTLA, many others have not. Alliance teachers are split, with many eager to join UTLA and many others who still prefer to remain independent.

In their complaints filed with the PERB, UTLA provides a chronology of how the Alliance officials have responded to the unionization efforts. Alliance officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In one instance included in the complaints, an after-school union meeting on March 18 was canceled at Alliance Susan & Eric Smidt Technology High School by the principal Lori Rhodes after a UTLA representative, Jessica Foster, who was meeting with school teachers, was told she was not allowed on campus and was escorted off the property.

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UTLA announces new contracts for teachers at 4 charter schools

UTLAUnited Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has announced that it negotiated new contracts for teachers at four LA Unified charter schools — Palisades Charter High, Pacoima Charter Elementary, Ivy Academia and Granada Hills Charter High.

Two of the contracts include raises for teachers.

UTLA currently represents more than 1,000 educators at 13 charter schools. They include six charters that converted from traditional  schools  — Birmingham Community Charter High School, Granada Hills Charter High, Montague Charter Academy, Pacoima Charter, El Camino Real Charter High School and Palisades Charter High.

Five other independent charters have been unionized by UTLA  — Ivy Academia, Apple Academy Charter Public Schools, Accelerated Schools, Port of Los Angeles High School and Global Education Academy. And two charter chains — Green Dot and Camino Real — have their own California Teachers Association-affiliated unions.

The new contract at Palisades High will include an eight percent raise over two years, an increase in stipends for master’s and doctorate degrees, and “an agreement that an academic accountability committee made up of a majority of educators will assess students’ needs and make recommendations based on those needs, which will then be bargained and voted on by the membership,” UTLA’s newsletter reported.

The newsletter also said the committee was formed due to the administration instituting an “unpopular bell schedule change.”

At Pacoima Charter, teachers will receive a 12 percent raise in each of the next two years, as well as a commitment for an increase in 2017. The teachers also “fought off a number of take-backs, including elimination of lifetime health benefits for new hires, extension of faculty meetings, and new mandatory meetings and PD sessions,” UTLA reported.

UTLA said teachers at Ivy Academia received a stronger voice in decision-making and teachers at Granada Hills Charter received improvements on their vision and detail plans, auxiliaries and salary point credits. UTLA also said contract bargaining is underway or about to begin a number of other charter schools where the teachers are represented by UTLA.

A group of teachers at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools is currently working unionize as well, an effort the administration is against. The fight has led to UTLA filing a labor complaint against Alliance for what it says is illegal interference in the unionization process.

 

 

LAUSD headed for future showdown with UTLA over health benefits

UTLA rally at James Monroe High School Nov. 20, 2014

UTLA rally at James Monroe High School Nov. 20, 2014

When LA Unified and its teachers union agreed to new three-year deals on a contract and health benefits this spring, one strike was averted. But another may be on the horizon.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl took the stage over the weekend at the union’s annual leadership conference and made another strike threat in his State of the Union address, predicting that the district would try to rollback health benefits when they reopen negotiations in 2017.

While it may appear that Caputo-Pearl just likes saying “strike,” he doesn’t have to squint too hard to see the writing on the wall: several district leaders have said LA Unified will need to rethink its health benefits next time around.

The current health benefits contract was given a thumbs up by Superintendent Ramon Cortines and was approved by the school board with a 6-1 vote in April. But in its press release announcing the deal, the district pointed out the rising costs of health care for employers. The deal will cost the district over $3 billion dollars over three years, with each succeeding year costing roughly five to six percent more.

In the release, Cortines said, “I want to be clear: this agreement is not a final solution, and I agree that drastic changes need to be made if we are to sustain health benefits and honor our commitment to our employees and retirees.”

In response to Caputo-Pearl’s prediction, district spokeswoman Shannon Haber told LA School Report, “We can’t speculate what the financial condition of the state, and consequently the district, will be two years from now. However, the district is always seeking ways to reduce the cost of health benefits — without reducing the level of service —  to our employees.”

The benefits package LA Unified offers is among the most robust of any district in the state for including free lifetime benefits for retirees and their dependents. It is one of about 70 districts in California that provides lifetime benefits with no premiums. Most other plans in the state only offer benefits until the retiree turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare.

Continuing to offer the current lifetime benefits will cost the district $868 million annually for 30 years, the Los Angeles Times reported in March.

“It’s scary,” Megan Reilly, LA Unified’s chief financial officer, told the Times. “It has been a growing concern that our liabilities have been increasing year after year and slowly becoming larger than our assets. We’re not there yet, but we probably have a couple of years to go.”

 

Caputo-Pearl calls for UTLA dues increase in face of ‘dangers’ ahead

Alex Caputo-Pearl

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, used his state of the union speech Friday night to call for a raise in union dues of $19 a month, an increase he said would enable the union to prepare for future challenges “greater and more dangerous” than those of recent years.

Reminding members that UTLA has not changed its dues structure since 1970, he warned that the current level of contributions would leave the union “bankrupt or dramatically weakened” in the years ahead. 

“UTLA needs to invest in itself the way serious organizations have always invested in themselves,” he told a crowded room at La Quinta, where the union held its annual leadership conference over the weekend.

Then, alluding to the union’s successes of the last year, which included a new labor agreement with LA Unified and successful campaigns in three of four board seat elections, he added, “Let’s be clear, we are a more powerful union than we were a year ago, but we must be a stronger union tomorrow than we are today because the challenges in front of us are greater and more dangerous than they were yesterday.”

Currently, UTLA’s full-time teachers pay $689 a year in dues. Raising them by $19 a month, taking the annual cost to $917, would bring in an additional $8 million for the 35,000-member union.

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UTLA gearing up for SCOTUS Friederichs decision, whatever it is

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

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

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

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

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

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

ArleneInouyeUTLA

UTLA Treasurer Arlene Inouye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UTLA's Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

UTLA’s Jose Lara with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

LAUSD teacher elected as CTA secretary-treasurer

David Goldberg-CTA

David Goldberg (credit: CTA)

* UPDATED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

A rally for more LAUSD focus on restorative justice programs

Caputo-Pearl

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks outside LAUSD headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAUSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LA Unified

UTLA rally at Grand Park

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

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

The MISIS Meltdown

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

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

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

Superintendent John Deasy Resigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early ed in the spotlight

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

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

Check out the interview below.

LAUSD names Teachers of the Year

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

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

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Plan to overhaul Obama Global Prep Academy draws a union protest

UTLA member Cat Proctor

UTLA member Cat Proctor outside Obama Global Prep Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CCSA paying Alliance alumni to promote anti-UTLA message

UTLA

*UPDATED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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