Archives for category: Union

Tonight (before the Oscars) I spoke at the Mark Taper Auditorium in the Los Angeles Central Library. It was a magnificent event, led by Alex Caputo-Pearl of the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

The library is an elegant building that has been renovated. The auditorium is gorgeous. The audience was wonderful.  The event was videotaped so I hope to post it here. I noticed that many big contributors to the privatization movement (Richard Riordan, Bill Gates) also contributed to the Public Library. Do you think they see a contradiction between supporting a great public library, free and accessible to all, while undermining public schools?

It was thrilling to be sponsored by UTLA. This is a union that is fully woke and fighting to save public education and make it far, far better.

First comes the March 3 election, where four seats on the LAUSD board are up for grabs. UTLA is vigorously supporting Jackie Goldberg, George McKenna, Scott Schmerelson and Patty Castellanos.

Then comes a major funding referendum next November where UTLA and other educators are asking voters of California to tax major corporations whose tax rates have not changed since 1978. The tax for the Communities and Schools defending would raise $12 Billion a year, half for social services for children, and half for schools.

UTLA boldly went on strike in January 2019. They have now purchased highway billboards to shame the corporate Privatizers. They are a brave and militant union.

I was thrilled to see so many LA friends and meet new ones, especially the East Side Hispanic parents who have created a neighborhood organization to fight privatization. I also enjoyed seeing our own commenter Left Coast Teacher, who is tall and very handsome. And it was great to see blogger Sara Roos (Red Queen in LA) and many more LA allies.

I love this union! They are truly leaders of the Resistance!



Chicago Teachers Union

For Immediate Release|

CONTACT: Chris Geovanis, 312-329-6250, 312-446-4939 (m),

  • 7:00 a.m., Thurs. Oct. 10: Sharkey, charter teachers to announce strike date
    Passages charter school, 1643 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago

CTU president to join charter teachers as Passages announces strike date

CEO for lone CPS-funded charter earns equal to CPS CEO who oversees 500+ schools, as management undermines special ed, English language supports and sanctuary for immigrant/refugee students.

CHICAGO—After months of fruitless negotiations, CTU bargaining team members at Passages Charter School will announce a strike date at 7:00 a.m. this Thursday, October 10 at the school, located at 1643 W. Bryn Mawr. They’ll be joined by CTU President Jesse Sharkey, as tens of thousands of CTU members in CPS district-run schools brace for a possible strike next week.

Passages’ students speak dozens of languages, and come from across Mexico, Central and South America, Asia and the African continent. Close to 70 percent are low-income. Over half are Black, Latinx or other children of color. Almost four in ten have limited English skills, and the school has one of the highest percentages of refugee students in CPS.

Yet charter holder Asian Human Services, which owns and runs the school, continues to refuse to even bargain over, let alone agree to, sanctuary language to protect the school’s immigrant and refugee students.

“Last year, every union charter school we bargained with agreed to sanctuary language,” said CTU-ACTS Chair Chris Baehrend. “The CTU has even reached a tentative agreement with CPS around sanctuary language in district-run schools. But Asian Human Services, which has a mission of helping refugees and immigrants, refuses to even bargain with us over this critical issue. Many of our students come from immigrant and refugee families. They need these protections—especially in the era of Trump and with the huge carve-outs that remain in Rahm Emanuel’s ‘Welcoming City’ sanctuary ordinance.”

Staffing is also a critical issue. The school’s chronic shortage of teachers and paraprofessionals for English language learners and special education students is approaching a crisis level for students, creating high and destabilizing turn-over and harsh working conditions for remaining educators. Those educators voted unanimously to authorize a strike on September 23.

According to IRS data for the charter holder, Asian Human Services, CEO Craig Maki made $247,725 plus $16,000 in additional compensation for the latest year available. Yet Passages pays teachers at the school 28% less than their colleagues at CPS district-run schools.

# # #

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at


Andrew Ujifusa writes in Education Week about a massive number of leaked emails from government officials in Puerto Rico that have caused an uproar on the Island. The emails touch on many issues, and education is one of them. In the wake of the data dump, many people are calling no the governor of Puerto Rico to resign.


Puerto Rico’s political leadership is unraveling at high speed, pushed along by an ex-education secretary’s arrest last week and the leak of private messages between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his top officials that include derogatory comments about the teachers’ union president. 

Julia Keleher, who was appointed by Rosselló as secretary in late 2016 and served as the island’s schools chief until April, was arrested last Wednesday on fraud charges related to how she handled millions of dollars in government contracts. Her arrest reignited ongoing debates about her and the governor’s successful push to expand educational choice, close hundreds of schools, and reform the island’s education bureaucracy, as well as her status as a non-Puerto Rican. 

Then on Saturday, the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico published hundreds of pages of private messages—mostly in Spanish—between Rosselló and some of his top advisers. The leaked messages have caused a political firestorm on the island, leading to several resignations and growing calls for the governor to step down. 

Among the messages’ targets was the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the island’s teachers’ union, and its president, Aida Díaz. In a Dec. 19, 2018 exchange, the then-chief financial officer of Puerto Rico, Christian Sobrino, responded to a statement from AMPR about union negotiations by saying in English, “I DONT [sic] NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!” 

If that epithet sounds familiar, you might be thinking of former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who once called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.”

Four days earlier, in response to other comments from Díaz in support of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Sobrino said he was “salivating” at the idea of shooting a person or people. However, it’s not entirely clear from Sobrino’s remark about shooting if he meant Cruz, Díaz, or both of them, or someone else. In the messages, Rosselló responded that this would be helpful to him. (Sobrino announced his resignation on Sunday after these and other messages were made public.) 

The governor also referred to former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek, a staunch proponent of charters and vouchers, as a “monster,” upon learning that he was charging the bankrupt island $250 an hour to be a “consultant.”

On a related matter, a story from the Associated Press says: 

Federal officials said Wednesday morning that former Education Secretary Julia Keleher; former Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration head Ángela Ávila-Marrero; businessmen Fernando Scherrer-Caillet and Alberto Velázquez-Piñol, and education contractors Glenda E. Ponce-Mendoza and Mayra Ponce-Mendoza, who are sisters, were arrested by the FBI on 32 counts of fraud and related charges.

The alleged fraud involves $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019. Thirteen million was spent by the Department of Education during Keleher’s time as secretary while $2.5 million was spent by the insurance administration when Ávila was the director.


Samuel Abrams, Director of the Centerfor the Study of Privatization at Teachers College, Columbia University, reports here about the introduction of charter schools and vouchers on the Island after the hurricane Maria. 

Abrams explains why the charter industry will not be able to turn Puerto Rico into New Orleans.

Unlike Hurricane Katina, many schools in PR were not destroyed. Unlike Nola, there remains an intact teachers’ union to fight against complete privatization. In New Orleans, all the teachers were fired and the Union was crushed.

He writes:

“The island’s Education Reform Act, approved in March 2018 in the wake of Hurricane María, which wrought havoc the previous September, introduced charter schools as well as vouchers, with the stipulation that no more than 10 percent of schools could be charter schools and no more than 3 percent of students could attend private or non-district public schools with the use of vouchers.

“In the first year following the Education Reform Act, one charter school opened: Vimenti, an elementary school in San Juan operated by the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico.

“According to an article published by Noticel,Vimenti started in August 2018 with a kindergarten and first grade, enrolling 58 students in total–31 of whom come from the neighborhood, 27 of whom come from nearby, and 13 of whom are classified for special education. The plan is to add one grade per year as students progress through school.

“Supplementary funding for Vimenti, reported Noticel, comes from the Colibri Foundation, which donated $1 million, and the singer Marc Anthony, who gave $500,000.

“In the hearings last week, the Department of Education considered proposals for four more charter schools in San Juan, five in Humacao, one in Bayamón, three in Caguas, six in Ponce, two in Arecibo, and nine in Mayaguez.

“In contrast to Vimenti, these schools would not be new schools built one grade at a time but, rather, conversions from traditional schools to charter schools.

“According to a school administrator with direct knowledge of the hearing process, it is expected that at least 13 of the proposed conversions will be approved for the 2019-2020 year while the remaining 17 will be approved for the 2020-2021 year.

“For charter schools, the baseline for determining the 10 percent was the number of schools as of August 15, 2018, which means that if additional public schools across the island are closed, the proportion of charter schools could in time  exceed 10 percent. The government of Puerto Rico closed nearly 25 percent of the island’s schools following Hurricane María. Before the storm, there were 1,110 schools. A year later, according to a report by Education Week, there were 847.

“Whether 14 schools or 31 in 2019-2020, the number of charter schools in Puerto Rico would mark striking growth.  By comparison, Minnesota, the state that introduced charter schools with legislation in 1991, opened one charter school in 1992 and six more in 1993. By 2017, there were 164 charter schools across the state, enrolling 6.5 percent of the state’s public school students.”

Ironically, Abrams points out, Puerto Rico already has a choice sector within the public system.

“Although charter schools and vouchers are new to Puerto Rico, the concept of alternative forms of public school management is not new. The island’s Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), in fact, sets the international standard for running neighborhood public Montessori schools.

“INE, celebrated in a recent story published by El Nuevo Dia, comprises 44 schools across the island enrolling 14,600 students. Like conventional neighborhood public schools, schools in the INE network require no application. Unlike conventional neighborhood public schools, the schools in this network all employ the Montessori child-centered curriculum and get significant supplementary funding from foundations.

“According to Ana María García, the founder and director of INE, the network spends 10 percent more per pupil–or $6,600 compared to $6,000.

“García was pressured by the Department of Education, she said in an interview in San Juan last week, to transform INE into a charter network, but she refused, contending that fundamental to INE was the idea that the network’s schools be open to all students in the neighborhood, without any application process. García prevailed.

“In recognition of García’s work, as El Nuevo Dia reported in a separate story, the American Montessori Society will be presenting García with its highest honor, its Living Legacy Award, at its annual meeting in March. “


Two Los  Angeles teachers write with pride about the accomplishments of the recent strike. They note that the strike proved two things: one, the teachers’ demands were just and had overwhelming support from stakeholders: students, parent, and teachers; two, Superintendent Austin Beutner is out of his depth and lac is the trust of those he serves: he should go.

Beutner’s problem, they say, is that he has spent his career serving shareholders, not stakeholders. His prior business experience leaves him ill-equipped to lead the nation’s second biggest school district. 

He came to disrupt thedistrict but demonstrated his lack of readiness for the job he holds.



Teach for America has received huge sums from Walton and other anti-union foundations on the assumption that they would be the teachers in nom-unioncharters. But what happens when they work in a union district like Oakland? This AP article by journalist Sally Ho says that TFA warns its corps members to cross the picket line or risk losing Americorps funds that lure them into TFA. The young people who are tempted to join TFA should be aware that they will be expected to act as scabs.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles went out on strike on January 14. The strike will end if the membership approves a new two-year contract. The union won almost everything it sought. The teachers will get a wage increase; the district will limit class sizes and eliminate a waiver that allowed class size limits to be voided for economic reasons; there will be full-time nurses in every school, a librarian, more counselors. And more.

Here is the union’s press release with the tentative agreement included.

Here is the New York Times summary:

Los Angeles public school teachers reached a tentative deal with school officials on Tuesday to end a weeklong strike that had upended learning for more than half a million students in the nation’s second largest public school system.

The teachers won a 6 percent pay raise and caps on class sizes, which had become one of the most contentious issues between the union and district officials. The deal also includes hiring full-time nurses for every school, as well as enough librarians for every middle and high school in the district by the fall of 2020.

The city and county will also expand programs into public schools, providing more support services for the neediest students.

The settlement came after tens of thousands of teachers marched in downtown Los Angeles and picketed outside schools for six school days, and after a round of marathon negotiating sessions over the holiday weekend.

In addition to winning resources that were badly needed, the union won on other fronts, first, by injecting charter schools into their demands; and second, by putting Democratic politicians on the spot.

The victory for the teachers’ union goes far beyond the new two-year contract. In recent years, teachers in Los Angeles and all over the country have often found themselves on the defensive, as politicians and educational leaders have demanded that more be done to weed out ineffective teachers.

The Los Angeles strike was the eighth major teacher walkout over the past year, as a movement that calls itself Red For Ed spread like wildfire from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Arizona, Chicago and beyond. But the strike in Los Angeles was a union-led one against Democratic leaders who are usually on their side. It also was one of the first to highlight one of the most controversial questions in education: whether charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, hurt traditional schools.

The charter issue was explained like this: The board will be asked to endorse a resolution calling for a cap on charter schools, which this billionaire-bought board is unlikely to do. But the union put out there the fact that charter schools harm public schools, and politicians had to choose. As “widely popular” as charter schools are, only 10% of the kids in the state attend them, and only 20% in Los Angeles.

In a summary released by the union, the agreement also includes a pledge that the elected school board for the district will vote on a resolution asking the state to “establish a charter school cap” and create a governor’s committee on charter schools.

That would be a major shift in California, where charter schools have been widely embraced by political leaders and have proved popular among parents.

This agreement is a major victory for UTLA and promises better working conditions in the schools and better services for students.

I had a very exciting morning with teachers, parents and students who were picketing outside Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.

Teachers and parents walked in front of the majestic exterior building, on the sidewalk where cars could see them. Several people held up signs saying “Honk if you support teachers,” and there was a cacaphony of honking horns as cars and trucks passed by.

As the minutes passed, the crowd grew to be hundreds of people, and they chanted “Hey, hey, Ho, Ho, Austin Beutner’s got to go!” And many other inspiring lines about supporting teachers and public schools.

The UTLA understands exactly what’s going on. Its President Alex Caputo-Pearl and his members understand that the billionaires bought the school board so they could expand the non-union charter presence. Charters now enroll 20% of the district’s children.

A day earlier, the UTLA held a mass rally in front of the California Charter Schools Association, the billionaire-funded lobbyists intent on destroying public schools in the state while prohibiting any accountability for charter schools and fighting any limits on charter school growth.

The billionaire-bought LAUSD has starved the public schools, which helps the charters.

The picketing stopped for short speeches. Parents, teachers, a celebrity (Rock Star Stevie Van Zandt) spoke. So did students, both of whom are seniors at Hamilton. One young man said, “We get it. They are targeting black and brown communities. They are trying to destroy our schools by denying us the education we need and deserve. They are dividing our district into haves and have-nots.” Another senior asked the audience to imagine what it was like to be in classes with nearly 50 students, where there were not enough chairs or desks. She said she took a chemistry class and sat on the floor all year because there was no other place to sit. She couldn’t get into an AP class because there were not enough chairs or desks.

The national media says the strike is about trachers’ pay but they are wrong. No one mentioned salaries except a parent speaker. The really important issues are class size, lack of money for full-time nurses in every school, lack of money for librarians and counselors, lack of money for the arts.

When I had my few minutes to speak, I pointed out that California is probably the richest state in the nation, but the latest federal data show that it spends less than the national average on its schools. California spends about the same, on a per-pupil basis, as Louisiana and South Carolina.

That’s shocking.

The good news today, aspesker said, was that a poll conducted by Loyola Marymount, reported that the strike has the support of 80% of the public.

Even if the national media misses the point, the people of LA understand that teachers are striking for their children and for future generations. They are fighting billionaires like Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, the Waltons, the Koch brothers, and other billionaires, for the survival of public education.

The whole world is watching.

The New York Times editorial and opinion pages have been a cheering section for charter expansion for years. I have tried and failed to get articles about the dangers of privatization on the op-Ed page. The last time I tried, my article was rejected, then posted online by the Washington Post (whose editorial board also favors charter schools). After that rejection, I swore I would never again submit an article because I knew it would be turned down. Imagine my surprise when I opened the New York Times to find the article below. Miriam Pawel, an independent historian and a contributing opinion writer for the Times, was allowed to explain the real dynamics behind the teachers’ strike: demographic change; high poverty rates; overcrowded classes; underfunding of the schools; and an aggressive charter industry, led by Eli Broad and other billionaires, willing to spend vast sums to privatize more public schools and kick out the unions.

Online, thisis the subtitle of the article: “Can California provide sufficient resources to support an effective public education system? Or will charter schools cripple it?”

What is so remarkable about this article is: 1. The New York Times printed it; 2. Pawel connected the dots among demographic change, underfunding of the schools, bloated class sizes, and the district’s deference to charter expansion; 3. Pawel acknowledged that the rapid growth of charters is the direct result of the intervention of billionaires like Broad, who poured $54 million into two losing statewide races last fall. I couldn’t have said it better.

Miriam Pawel writes:

LOS ANGELES — For decades, public schools were part of California’s lure, key to the promise of opportunity. Forty years ago, with the lightning speed characteristic of the Golden State, all of that changed.

In the fall of 1978, after years of bitter battles to desegregate Los Angeles classrooms, 1,000 buses carried more than 40,000 students to new schools. Within six months, the nation’s second-largest school district lost 30,000 students, a good chunk of its white enrollment. The busing stopped; the divisions deepened.

Those racial fault lines had helped fuel the tax revolt that led to Proposition 13, the sweeping tax-cut measure that passed overwhelmingly in June 1978. The state lost more than a quarter of its total revenue. School districts’ ability to raise funds was crippled; their budgets shrank for the first time since the Depression. State government assumed control of allocating money to schools, which centralized decision-making in Sacramento.

Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help. The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

The struggle in Los Angeles, a district so large it educates about 9 percent of all students in the state, will resonate around California. Oakland teachers are on the verge of a strike vote. Sacramento schools are on the verge of bankruptcy. The housing crisis has compounded teacher shortages. Los Angeles, like many districts, is losing students, and therefore dollars, even as it faces ballooning costs for underfunded pensions.

California still ranks low in average per-pupil spending, roughly half the amount spent in New York. California legislators have already filed bills proposing billions of dollars in additional aid, one of many competing pressures that face the new governor, Gavin Newsom, as he begins negotiations on his first state budget.

Unlike other states where teachers struck last year, California is firmly controlled by Democrats, for whom organized labor is a key ally. And the California teachers unions are among the most powerful lobbying force in Sacramento.

On paper, negotiations between the 31,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District center on traditional issues: salaries that have not kept pace, classes of more than 40 students, counselors and nurses with staggering caseloads. But the most potent and divisive issue is not directly on the bargaining table: the future of charter schools, which now enroll more than 112,000 students, almost one-fifth of all K-through-12 students in the district. They take their state aid with them, siphoning off $600 million a year from the district. The 224 independent charters operate free from many regulations, and all but a few are nonunion.

When California authorized the first charter schools in 1992 as a small experiment, no one envisioned that they would grow into an industry, now educating 10 percent of public school students in the state. To counter demands for greater regulation and transparency, charter advocates have in recent years poured millions into political campaigns. Last year, charter school lobbies spent $54 million on losing candidates for governor and state superintendent of education.

In Los Angeles, they have had more success. After his plan to move half of the Los Angeles district students into charter schools failed to get traction, the billionaire and charter school supporter Eli Broad and a group of allies spent almost $10 million in 2017 to win a majority on the school board. The board rammed through the appointment of a superintendent, Austin Beutner, with no educational background. Mr. Beutner, a former investment banker, is the seventh in 10 years and has proposed dividing the district into 32 “networks,” a so-called portfolio plan designed in part by the consultant who engineered the radical restructuring of Newark schools.

“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”

It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

Enrollment in the Los Angeles school district has declined consistently for 15 years, increasing the competition for students. It now educates just under a half-million students. More than 80 percent are poor, about three-quarters are Latino, and about one-quarter are English-language learners. On most state standardized tests, more than one-third fall below standards.

For 20 years, Katie Safford has taught at Ivanhoe Elementary, a school so atypical and so desirable that it drives up real estate prices in the upscale Silver Lake neighborhood. Ivanhoe parents raise almost a half million a year so that their children can have sports, arts, music and supplies. But parents cannot buy smaller classes or a school nurse. Mrs. Safford’s second-grade classroom is a rickety bungalow slated for demolition. When the floor rotted, the district put carpet over the holes. When leaks caused mold on the walls, Mrs. Safford hung student art to cover stains. The clock always reads 4:20.

“I was born to be a teacher,” Mrs. Safford said. “I have no interest in being an activist. None. But this is ridiculous.” For the first time in her life, she marched last month, one of more than 10,000 teachers and supporters in a sea of red.

Monday she walked the picket line outside a school where just eight of the 456 students showed up. Now her second graders ask the questions no one can answer: When will you be back? How will it end?

It is hard to know, when the adults have so thoroughly abdicated their responsibility for so long. Last week, the school board directed the superintendent to draw up a plan examining ways to raise new revenue.

This strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.

Miriam Pawel (@miriampawel), a contributing opinion writer, is an author, journalist and independent historian.

Please read this statement released by Black Lives Matter in support of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and their strike for better conditions for teaching and learning.

It reads, in part:

The demands of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) strike are in direct support of students and parents, and are directly aligned with the four demands of the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. It is therefore our duty to stand with UTLA in it’s fight for:

More nurses, counselors, school psychologists, librarians

Smaller class sizes

Less standardized testing

Sustainable community schools

End to privatization and charter expansion

End to criminalization of students through unlawful and random police searches