Let’s Turn The Tide at LAUSD and UTLA!
By Neil Chertcoff
Education Activist – firstname.lastname@example.org
The education of hundreds of thousands of students and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of educators and support personnel are on the line in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
Years of budget cuts and corrupt sell-offs of ‘public’ property, along with LAUSD and UTLA cave-ins to charter-private school owners, have seen the number of ‘LA schools for profit’ zoom to over 200. Over 9,200 classroom teachers lost jobs due to “RIF’s” (Reductions In Force — layoffs), most becoming permanent. Mainly because of the vicious cuts and layoffs, class sizes have climbed 15% on average over the last 5 years.
But the billions in cuts by the Legislature and Governor, in bed with corporate moneybags, isn’t the only curse. In most districts in CA, unions like UTLA that falsely claim to defend members’ and students’ needs alike have made under the table political deals with the local School Boards and Sacramento politicians. This divides union bargaining units against each other, as they support board members, legislators and even charter school privatizers who give the union leaders empty verbal promises that the Union’s lost dues will be made up by allowing charter teachers to sign up for inferior “lite” union contracts for which dues can still be collected.
These unprincipled schemes have cost teachers thousands of jobs and humiliating demotions already. They have also emboldened the fork tongued LA Board of Ed Members and Supt. John Deasy to step up their campaign of intimidation and create a climate of fear among hard-pressed teachers. Following Sacramento orders, LAUSD has also attempted to get rid of senior teachers through slander and lies and forced transfer of many innocent teachers to District “Teacher Jails.”
With all this going on for years, dating from at least the last 3 UTLA administrations, those of former president A. J. Duffy, Warren Fletcher’s recent term, and now entering Alex Caputo-Pearl’s ‘Union Power’ slate of officer retreads, there has not been even a single whole day of union organized planned STRIKE actions carried out. Instead the union leaders falsely claim that a strike would be ‘illegal.’ (This, after the union officers instead signed rotten deals, ‘Temporary Agreements’ loaded with concessions to LAUSD that demoralize teachers, and buried any strike preparations that would advancing a militant mood to unite for a city-wide strike.
The recent UTLA elections were badly marred by acts of LAUSD and Union Power (UP) collaboration and District approved advantages for Union Power candidates only, that of new Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl and others. This included furtive meetings with Supt. Deasy himself by UP officers at the upscale Drago’s Restaurant downtown. Behind the slick rhetoric of Alex Caputo-Pearl and his group lie more concessions to politicians and LA School Board officials. This means that the rank and file workers at school sites and parents relying on public education for their children need to work together, build up united independent resistance groups and fight back against all attempts by capital to make the students and teachers, etc., pay for this social crisis.
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Be Part of the Team for the Schools –
LA Students Deserve Campaign
by Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA Pres. firstname.lastname@example.org, Betty Forrester UTLA/AFT VP email@example.com, Colleen Schwab Secondary VP firstname.lastname@example.org, Daniel Barnhart Secretary email@example.com, Cecily Myart-Cruz UTLA/NEA VP firstname.lastname@example.org, Juan Ramirez Elementary VP email@example.com, Arlene Inouye Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re very encouraged by the confidence the membership expressed in us and the dynamism and collective resolve we’ve seen in the Board of Directors seated with us. We offer this jointly-written article to reflect that unity, and to dialogue about what’s needed to win the schools LA students deserve and the respect educators deserve.
Something’s happening in teachers’ unions around the country, inspired by the broad educator-parent-community-youth alliance during the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike. In Portland, students took over the School Board as they joined the union in demanding smaller classes. In St. Paul, parents joined educators in reducing standardized testing. Unions have expanded their role while facing attacks on educators and public education. UTLA is part of this. Our Schools L.A. Students Deserve contract and community campaign stands on the shoulders of similar campaigns in Chicago, St. Paul, Portland, and other cities.
What we want is simple – a good contract that brings improvements for our students and our members. That’s why we’re negotiating with the District. But LAUSD is offering a 2% one-time payment for 2013-14, a regular ongoing 2% raise in 2014-15, fewer educator rights, the destructive so-called Teacher Growth and Development Cycle, and nothing regarding class-size reduction.
This proves that we won’t get a better offer without organizing our members, site-by-site, to the point that we can strike if, after further negotiations, we find that we need to.
With LAUSD and its allies engaging parents and community, often spreading misinformation, we’ll have a hard time winning what students, educators, and schools need without deep, systematic engagement with parents, community and youth. We’ll lose if we disconnect the fight for pay from other issues that are critical to students and educators. LAUSD adds whatever regressive measures they like to their “offers” (like the voting rights cut and other elements of their May offer). If we don’t fight for a broad program, we can’t debate all the educational issues facing LAUSD. That undermines all our demands, including pay.
We and the new UTLA Board weren’t seated until July 1, but we hit the ground running in building for the “Schools L.A. Students Deserve.” We’ve communicated to members that we need the capacity to strike if further negotiations with LAUSD don’t yield a good contract that helps students and members – and members should start setting aside $100 to $200 per month as a personal strike fund.
We mobilized for all the June School Board meetings and worked with parent and community organizations to support funding to high-needs schools and for restorative justice programs. We worked with the community to support UTLA-endorsed candidate for School Board District 1, George McKenna, endorsed by all three educators UTLA supported in the first round. These networks give us the potential to build a broader educator-community alliance in South LA and beyond after the election. We met with parent, youth, and community organizations about demands they’re organizing behind and possible UTLA support for community demands as part of our contract/community campaign.
At its first meeting July 10, the new UTLA Board of Directors passed sweeping measures to build our capacity to organize, to build the power to strike with community support if we need to. UTLA has made contributions to the movement for educational justice in the past by building collective power. We must do the same now, or we’ll lose our profession and truly public education for our students. We can and will build that movement, together.