Archives for category: Union


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

Glenn Sacks, a high school teacher, read Arne Duncan’s editorial blast at the UTLA teachers’ strike and concluded that the former Secretary of Education really knows nothing about conditions of teaching in the Los Angeles public schools.

Sacks begins:

“The closer we get to a strike, the more pressure is put on us to call it off. In a recent article in The Hill, pro-charter/anti-union former Education secretary Arne Duncan criticizes United Teachers of Los Angeles, citing the Los Angeles Unified School District’s alleged financial problems. Yet the neutral, state-appointed factfinder on the dispute contradicts many of LAUSD’s (and Duncan’s) claims.

“For example, Duncan tells us LAUSD “is headed toward insolvency in about two years if nothing changes…It simply does not have the money to fund UTLA’s demands.” But arbitrator David A. Weinberg, the Neutral Chair of the California Public Employment Relations Board fact-finding panel, while noting the challenges LAUSD faces, found that the District’s reserves skyrocketed from $500 million in 2013-2014 to $1.8 billion in 2017-2018. Three years ago LAUSD projected that their 2018-2019 reserve would be only $100 million—it’s actually $1.98 billion. We’ve heard these alarming claims for many years–for LAUSD, the sky is always falling, but somehow it never falls.

“Duncan tells us LAUSD “has an average of 26 students per class. Of the 10 largest school districts in California, only one has a smaller average class size than Los Angeles.” These numbers are disputed by UTLA. Moreover, even if 26 is correct on paper, Duncan should know that student-to-teacher ratios count special education and other specialized teachers who normally have much smaller classes than regular classroom teachers. Class sizes are significantly larger than standard student-teacher ratios indicate.

“At my high school, for example, we have over 30 academic classes with 41 or more students, including nine English/writing classes with as many as 49 students, and three AP classes with 46 or more students. One English teacher has well over 206 students—41+ per class. A US Government teacher has 52 students in his AP government class. Writing is a key component of both classes—the sizes make it is impossible for these teachers to properly review and help students with their essays.”

Duncan makes clear that he sides with management and against UTLA. Betsy DeVos and Duncan are on the same side. Why are we not surprised.

The UTLA delayed their possible strike to January 14, while waiting to hear a judge rule on the LAUSD effort to block the strike.

The judge gave her okay today.

Howard Blume writes in the LA Times:

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Thursday cleared the path for a Los Angeles teachers’ strike to start Monday.

At issue was whether the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, gave a legally required 10-day notice to the school district that its members would no longer work under terms of the previous contract. This notice provision is included in the contract between the union and the L.A. Unified School District.

Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled that there was no cause before her that would justify an order to delay a strike. On its own, the union had moved the strike date from Thursday to Monday out of concern about a potential adverse court decision.

Attorneys for L.A. Unified had argued that the union needed to start the 10-day period over — at the very least — because its leadership had “encouraged” a strike, something that is not allowed during the notice period.

But Strobel did not take issue with the union’s recent activities and also decided that all notice provisions would be satisfied by the union’s intended strike date.

Glenn Sacks, a social studies teacher in Los Angeles, reports that the neutral fact-finders validated most of UTLA’s criticisms of LAUSD.

He says that the time to strike grows near, unless LAUSD changes its positions on critical issues affecting students and classrooms.

He writes:

In the last step before United Teachers of Los Angeles could legally strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District, the California Public Employment Relations Board heard both parties and issued its recommendations for a settlement. While one wouldn’t know it from LAUSD’s statements, taken as a whole the report largely amounts to a lawyers’ brief in favor of UTLA’s positions.

LAUSD triumphantly announced that the report “is consistent with” its September offer to UTLA. Yet the only major area of factfinder agreement LAUSD cites is its offer of a 6 percent raise over a three-year contract. The district only made this offer after 17 months of negotiations–originally teachers were not offered any raise at all.

By contrast, on issue after issue, Arbitrator David A. Weinberg, the Neutral Chair of the fact-finding panel, came down on the side of UTLA.

One of LAUSD’s most egregious practices is its repeated scrapping of contractually-agreed to class size limits. Section 1.5 of the contract allows the district to set aside these limits during a financial crisis. The district abuses this provision by claiming a dubious crisis to invoke 1.5 on an almost annual basis. This wounds children by ripping away dedicated teachers with whom they’ve built important bonds. It also raises class sizes.

UTLA prioritized eliminating this harmful clause, and Weinberg endorsed this. He added, “I agree with the Union argument that lower class sizes are one of the best predictors of successful teaching and student success.”

LAUSD’s salary offer mandates that teachers do an additional 12 hours of professional development. Weinberg agreed with UTLA that this requirement should be dropped.

While LAUSD often claims its teachers receive generous pay and benefits, Weinberg wrote “I agree with the Union’s argument that the bargaining unit deserves to be higher ranked in comparison to other jurisdictions given the combination of a higher cost of living in the LA metro area, and the difficulty in teaching a population of students with so many needs and challenges.”

The following appeared in the UTLA newspaper.

UTLA retirees: Adopt a School for possible strike

UTLA-R members and members of other unions are encouraged to sign up for the Adopt a School program to support a possible strike at the site level.

Here’s how the program would work: Now that active members of UTLA authorized a strike, the retiree would reach out to the chapter chair at the adopted site to offer any assistance needed to prepare for and support the strike. The retiree would leave contact in- formation with the chapter chair and be ready to help as directed with any of the below:

• organizing (families and communi- ty) with phone calls, meetings, window posters, etc.

• talking with UTLA members about other job actions you participated in and lessons learned.

• reaching out for logistics for the strike days (water, food, facilities, security, sign- ins, posters) and whatever comes up that the chapter chair needs.

• being on the line and bringing others with you.

More than 100 UTLA-R members already have signed up to volunteer to assist chapter chairs at sites that were their alma mater, that are in their neighborhood, or that they worked at or sent their child to.

To sign up: Send your full name, union/ local (or UTLA-R), email, phone, school you’d like to adopt, and UTLA Area (if known) to Evy Vaughn at evaughn@utla. net. Please also include your connection to the school (e.g., the site is your alma ma- ter, your neighborhood school, a site you worked at or sent a child/grandchild to).

Los Angeles is about to try to prove that class size doesn’t matter. The district, on orders from investment banker Austin Beutner, has hired about 400 substitutes to fill in for thousands of teachers who are preparing to strike on January 10. Let’s see: 400 teachers for 600,000 students. Those are very large classes!

As leaders of Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles remain locked in an impasse over a new contract, the district has hired hundreds of substitute staffers to replace picketing educators in the event of a potential strike come Jan. 10. But the move has sparked outrage from the union.

The districts’ preliminary move, alongside the union’s strike preparations, is a sign of the increasing likelihood of a strike that would be LAUSD’s first since 1989 and stands to impact the daily operations of hundreds of schools in the country’s second largest district.

LA Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said Thursday that the district remains “at the bargaining table” but is actively preparing for teachers’ absence by hiring approximately 400 substitute teachers and fallback instruction for students.

“We have hired substitutes, we have made plans as to alternate curriculums for days that there is a strike but our goal is to make sure schools are safe and open so kids continue to learn,” Beutner said on Thursday. “My concern first and foremost is the safety and well being of our students.”

The move to hire replacement staff drew a sharp rebuke from the union over the last two days.

“It is outrageously irresponsible for Supt. Austin Beutner to force this strike when the district holds $1.9 billion in reserves and it is even more irresponsible to think that 400 substitutes can educate more than 600,000 students,” UTLA said in a statement Friday. “We believe that it is illegal for the district to hire people outside our bargaining unit to teach in LAUSD classrooms.”