Archives for category: Union

In Los Angeles, the UTLA reached an agreement with the LAUSD and superintendent to extend remote learning as COVID surges and every ICU bed is filled in the city. The billionaire-funded “Parent Revolution” complained (billionaires are parents although they have no children in LA public schools).

With children mired in distance learning and many struggling academically, Los Angeles teachers will take on more live online interaction with students next semester, under an agreement announced Friday. Also under the deal, school nurses will conduct campus-based coronavirus tests.

The pact between the teachers union and the Los Angeles Unified School District was essential for the nation’s second-largest school system; the agreement’s predecessor would have expired Dec. 31. And, based on current infection rates, a return to campus in January is almost impossible under state health guidelines. 

“This progress in online instruction reflects the shared learning of all who work in schools about the need to maximize the interaction between teachers and students and their families,” Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner said in a statement.

“We are gratified to reach an agreement to extend the distance learning agreement, which is what our students need right now,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “In the face of the upheaval we are all dealing with, educators, students and families need stability most of all.”

The new side letter to the teachers’ contract goes at least part way to addressing complaints from critics — including many parents and some community groups who have called for increased daily live interaction between students and teachers. 

“This agreement still leaves Los Angeles Unified with less learning time, less support for teachers, less partnership with families and less focus on racial equity than other large California school districts,” said Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, a local advocacy group that has provided support for a lawsuit filed on behalf of families who contendthat the district is violating their legal right to an education.

There also are parents who would settle for nothing less than a return to full-time in-person instruction. Others support remaining in distance learning, while some worry that current practices force students to remain online for too long, especially younger ones. No strategy has emerged that offers full academic support and an elimination of risk for school employees and the families they serve. Making strides in that direction has become more complicated as an alarming COVID-19 surge stretches local healthcare resources past their capacity.

The pandemic closed campuses in March, but schools in counties adjacent to L.A. were able to open in the fall, when local infection rates were lower. Campuses that opened during that period can remain open, but not every school system did so. And some districts that reopened have closed their campuses once more.

A recent district survey of employees represented by the teachers union indicated that 24% are prepared to return to schools; 55% said they are able to go back but prefer to remain in distance learning; 18% said an underlying health condition would make it potentially unsafe for them to return; 2% said they are 65 or older and would explore continuing to work remotely; and 1% said they intend to apply for unpaid leave.

The survey was conducted Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, with 26,305 responses, well over two-thirds of union members. The union represents teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses.

Under the new pact, nurses have to help carry out the district’s testing program. They will receive an extra $3.50 an hour for such work completed in person on a campus and additional pay when the work extends beyond normal hours.

Arthur Goldstein, a veteran New York City high school teacher, warns that New York City public schoools cannot open unless they are safe for students and staff. He wrote an open letter to staff at his school. The signs and portents of a strike by the city’s United Federation of Teachers are looming in the background.

He writes, in part,

Every time I read someone advocating opening buildings, they have a proviso. They say of course, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll go back to remote learning. In fact there are a lot of places where it didn’t work out, and they did just that. There’s Israel, South Korea, multiple schools in the south and southwest, and universities that saw immediate rises in infection levels, while starting below Mayor de Blasio’s much ballyhooed 3% positive level (so much for that). Chapel Hill closed in one week.

There’s a real cost to these openings, and that cost is the health of those who attend. I know some of you who’ve been very sick. I know some of you who’ve lost family members. I’ve had family members sick, and I lost a friend.

The whole country is looking to us as the only major city that can possibly open school buildings. UFT has looked at this, and decided that if we are to open, the only way to do it is safely. We’ve therefore consulted with medical experts, some of whom you can see at Mulgrew’s press conference, and concluded the only way to deal with the virus was to actively test for it and trace it.

We don’t want a single educator or student to get sick. We don’t want any students or employees bringing COVID home to their families. The UFT demands for testing were created in consultation with medical experts. They are beyond reasonable; they are visionary. We’ve looked at the failures and determined ways to preclude them. Our testing demands are based on science. The mayor’s opposition is based on hiding his head in the sand and hoping for the best.

Here is a checklist of what UFT will be looking at as we visit every building in the city. UFT also demands a Covid Building Response Team to create protocols for how students will move when entering and leaving school, and also to map out responses to issues that may occur. Finally, to ensure safety, we demand that everyone entering the school building be tested for the virus. We demand random testing to ensure we stay safe.

UFT will not allow its members or the students we serve to be veritable canaries in a coal mine. Dr. Fauci can talk about how we’re part of a great experiment, but we refuse to be guinea pigs. We refuse to make guinea pigs of our families, our students, or their families. If Mayor de Blasio refuses to make schools safe, we will refuse to work.

The CATO Institute believes everything should be privatized. It is funded by far-right billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes. In this post, Chris Edwards argues the libertarian view that the United States Postal Service should be privatized. In private hands, there would be fewer post offices and fewer employees and fewer mail deliveries. The union would be broken. Some towns and communities would have no post office. A libertarian dream.

One huge lesson from the experience of the pandemic is that we need a functioning government with coherent leadership. The libertarians have wanted to destroy the government for decades. Now they retreat to their yachts and gated compounds to watch the spectacle of what they have wrought, without a shred of remorse.

Governor Gavin Newsom laid out his thoughts about a phased reopening of the state, including the possibility of opening schools as early as late a July or early August.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles responded with their thoughts.

The union said:

An early start to the school year in LA would have to be bargained between UTLA and the LA Unified School District, and there has been no discussion about doing so.

California has led the way on flattening the curve of this deadly pandemic by prioritizing people’s health and safety. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, our leaders understand that the economy should serve the people, and not the other way around. We urge our leaders to stay the course, and caution against prematurely lifting social distancing protections by opening schools in a way that would put students, teachers, and families at risk.

Governor Newsom outlined six very sensible metrics — such as the availability of therapeutics to deal with COVID-19 and drastically increased testing and contact tracing capacity — that would determine when it would be appropriate to lift the pandemic protections. We should meet those metrics before setting unrealistic timelines.

There is much that remains unknown about what will happen in the next few weeks or months. It’s wise to wait and see and make sure everyone is safe.

Last week, I had a whirlwind visit to Chicago to talk about my new book. Fortunately before my flight to Charleston, West Virginia, I had time in the morning to visit Karen Lewis at an assisted living facility where the care is excellent.

Karen is a brilliant charismatic woman who taught science in the Chicago public schools for more than 20 years. In 2010, Karen led a faction of the Chicago Teachers Union called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which swept to victory in the union elections. She became president of the CTU. She was a strategic organizer who worked to build alliances with parent and community groups. In 2012, the CTU voted to strike. The legislature, egged on by Gates-funded Stand for Children, passed a law that they thought would make a strike impossible by requiring a vote of 75% of the membership. Karen and her team won the approval of about 90% of the members and led a successful strike that had the support of parents and communities because they understood that teachers were striking for their children.

Karen was an articulate and greatly admired visionary. She planned to run for mayor against Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and her own polling suggested that she would beat him handily.

Tragically, Karen was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2014. Since then, she has had a series of setbacks, including a stroke. Life is so unfair. Karen is only 66.

When I saw her, she was happy that I visited. As I expected, she is disabled and has limited mobility. But despite the terrible blows that life has dealt her, she is spirited, still has a sense of humor, and is interested in what’s happening in the world. I told her that wherever I go, people remember her as the Mother of the Resistance. They remember that she stood up to a bully and won. I showed her the photo of her in my book and told her that her legacy is there whenever teachers stand together and demand better conditions for teaching and learning. I told her she was the spark that lit the fire by her example and the powerful union she created. I told her she will never be forgotten.

She was a strong labor leader, a saucy woman who was fearless, wise, and funny.

I was glad I saw her but sad to see the tragedy she endured when she was at the peak of her promise. Her beloved husband John sees her every day and has been by her side through the best of times and the worst of times.

I wrote a note in the book I gave her. Simply, “Karen, I love you. Diane.”

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.