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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Public School Choice & UTLA's New Contract w/ LAUSD:

(Originally published on November 21, 2011, as part of Leadership for Educational Equity's "Teach For America Alumni of Los Angeles" blog: http://blog.educationalequity.org/blog/story/2011/11/21/9937/5604).

May this note find you and yours as well as possible.

The blog I write is intended for TFA alumni interested in what’s happening in and around L.A.’s schools. Usually a new entry is posted during the latter half of each week. However, I held last week’s posting until Brent Tercero’s (L.A. ‘07) Pico Rivera City Council election results were made official. They have been…

On November 8, I shared my prediction that the election would come down to a few dozen votes, in order to communicate both a sense of urgency, and your power as LEE members, campaign donors, volunteers.

He ran in a race where the difference between the top vote getter and the next was 19 votes: Congratulations Brent! =o)

In this week’s piece I examine Public School Choice and its role in the collective bargaining currently underway between UTLA and LAUSD. I argue Superintendent John Deasy made a political decision that ultimately proved to be a strategic mistake by implementing changes to PSC before concluding contract negotiations.

Please take a moment to look it over and leave a comment with your thoughts, and join the "Alumni of Los Angeles" group if you haven't already (http://blog.educationalequity.org/blog/group/56).

Remember that the advantage of the LEE blog is the fact it's not public: Whatever you write will only be seen by TFAers, so please comment and share your inklings freely.

Take a moment to check out the following blog entries as well:

ABCs of lawsuit filed by parents claiming LAUSD failed to enforce the Stull Act. (http://blog.educationalequity.org/blog/story/2011/11/4/121226/173)

Lessons “Don’t Hold Us Back” coalition should glean from the 11/08/2011 “Issue 2” election in Ohio.

Future pieces will address "Occupy LAUSD," "The 2012 Kids Education Plan," the tax overhaul proposed by “Long Term,” ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, public school choice, teacher education and credentialing, as well as Regular, Special, and Committee of the Whole, Board of Education meetings.

I hope you don't mind me reaching out to you via email. I've been asked by LEE (educationalequity.org) to reach out to all Teach for America alums in L.A., and get a dialogue going regarding the "perfect storm" shaking up the educational establishment. Please join the discussion, and join LEE’s "Alumni of Los Angeles" group if you haven't already!

Thanks ever so much in advance for your willingness to contribute your thoughts!

Best of the best today and always, - Unai - ('98 L.A. Corps)


Public School Choice & UTLA's New Contract w/ LAUSD

I began by discussing the unfolding case of five mothers, one father, and nine children who’ve decided to sue LAUSD for failure to comply with the Stull Act (i.e., a section of the statewide Education Code stating teachers must be regularly evaluated, "with data that reasonably measures, among other criteria, whether or not the students under an employee's charge are actually learning"). http://blog.educationalequity.org/blog/story/2011/11/4/121226/173 Last week, I talked about the challenges the “Don’t Hold Us Back” will likely face if it confronts UTLA and LAUSD’s Board of Education in demanding a collective bargaining contract that aligns so very closely with the one Superintendent John Deasy proposes, if it continues to proceed without some sort of a working relationship with an organized labor partner. http://blog.educationalequity.org/blog/story/2011/11/10/04245/189

As you may or may not know, Steve Barr, of Green Dot schools fame, is currently doubling down on an endeavor called “Future Is Now Schools,” whose projects include the now famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) “Teachers for a New Unionism,” an effort quarterbacked byNewTLA co-founder, Mike Stryer. Earlier this week, (on Tuesday, to be precise) Stryer’s coalition turned over 630 signatures to UTLA President Warren Fletcher in an effort to force a bargaining-unit-wide referendum on the teacher evaluation system currently being negotiated with LAUSD. UTLA’s governance document (its constitution, if you will) contains a provision that allows for such a referendum if 500 signatures are gathered and certified. As early as next Tuesday, Stryer will receive notice if these signatures have been accepted or not. If they are approved, Stryer will have succeeded in potentially overriding existing UTLA policy from within, although it remains to be seen to what extent the “teacher led” changes to the evaluation system Stryer proposes will be picked up by UTLA writ large. Warren Fletcher said he likes the ideas, but the “timing continues to be tricky because of legal disputes with LAUSD over a pilot evaluation program.” http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2011/11/la_union_caucus_seeks_to_put_e.html By which he means the injunction UTLA filed back in May to stop LAUSD teachers from voluntarily participating in a pilot program that incorporates a value-added model called “academic growth over time,” (AGT) as part of the multiple measures evaluation system it put together based on recommendations in the Final Report of the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce http://sae.lausd.net/teacher_effectiveness_task_force. His welcoming stance is influenced by the fact that six in 10 voters believe test scores should count for at least 30% of a teacher's evaluation. In fact, 58% say the quality of public schools would be improved if the public had access to teachers' reviews, versus 23% who hold this kind of disclosure wouldn’t help or might make things worse. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-poll-teachers-20111121,0,4971525.story

Notwithstanding, there is one item where there is zero divergence between the 630 UTLA members supporting Stryer with their signatures (many of whom already belong to NewTLA), and UTLA’s current anti-reform leadership: Both sides agree that there should be a moratorium on layoffs, (a.k.a., RIFs)—a position in keeping with the deal the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) made with Governor Brown and the state legislature earlier this year. AB114, a bill that obligates school districts in California to return to 2010 staffing levels, and freeze any further firings of school site employees, was fast tracked, and consequently lacked the transparency, public hearings, or pre-vote scrutiny that is normally commonplace when it comes to budgetary matters. As you might expect a number of big name “education reform” camp players wrote a letter to Governor Brown asking him to repeal parts of AB114. It probably would not surprise you to know Ed Trust-West and the United Way of Greater L.A. spearheaded the effort, or that LAUSD Superintendent Deasy signed the final draft. But you might be surprised to know TFA - Bay Area, signed on to this move to pressure Brown into using his executive powers to excise three AB114 line items. https://docs.google.com/document/d/10Br42g7OPCpDXmtffFeHKsbdFGkhFyjPRplX_PVn7iU/edit?hl=en_US&pli=1

On Tuesday, November 15, 2011, the Board of Education held a regular session meeting, and LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy provided those assembled, watching on television, or streaming online with an update on the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with labor partner, United Teachers of Los Angeles. He talked about substantial agreement, but not substantive agreement; of collaboration impeded by consternation. At the end of his mostly vague presentation, the tenor, tone, and pace of his parlance changed. “What’s possible, and what’s needed is the courage to say, ‘yes’; to trust our teachers and our parents… I realize there’s no huge reservoir of trust in this district, but I am willing to deficit spend trust… Or health benefits decision was the right decision. We need to balance it with the right reforms... If we reach an agreement framework, I will notify this Board, so we can affirm the agreement, which I expect in the next couple of days.” As I listened to Deasy’s words, I analyzed his astuteness as a politician and I began to have some very realpolitik, Cold War thoughts about what he was willing to trade away and compromise on when negotiating with Warren Fletcher behind closed doors. The first, most obvious elephant in the room, (one that shouldn’t come as any surprise): Public School Choice.

After all, on August 30th, the Board voted unanimously to allow only internal applicants, (i.e., LAUSD teacher or administrator-led teams) the opportunity to have their bids (a.k.a., RFP applications) considered for the 15 new campuses seeking management and operations teams under Public School Choice 3.0. There were a number of conditions and variables in the resolution intended to couch and soften the blow. Charter school teams were still allowed, and in fact, encouraged to apply for “focus” schools (a.k.a. the lowest performing schools according to the criteria established by the tiering system established by former Superintendent Ramon Cortines, that ranked all of LAUSD’s schools as “focus,” service and support,” “advancing,” “achieving,” “excelling,” “specialized support,” or “Superintendent’s exception”
http://www.laschoolboard.org/files/Categorizing%20Schools%20for%20Support.pdf). The deadline for all proposals was bumped back until November 18. And the giant asterisk on the resolution was the contingency that UTLA consent to Superintendent Deasy’s proposal regarding performance evaluations, job requirements, and other conditions on any and all would-be operators of PSC campuses (i.e., all PSC school leaders must agree to utilize “thin contracts” that allow for mutual consent placement, and other autonomies) by November 1. If such an agreement were not reached by November 1, the original motion would be put back in place. Here’s the joint statement and original motion: http://www.utla.net/node/3522

In my opinion, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and charters (CMOs) writ large kind of flubbed everything leading up to and immediately following the resolution. Other than Green Dot, no one had really telegraphed interest in a PSC 3.0 focus school, so right off the bat, Steve Zimmer, the Board Member proposing the resolution was able to make the case that CMOs cherry pick instead of doing the hard work. (Ironically, Zimmer is a TFA and LEE member whose campaign largely relied on a promise to deliver school choice to all of the families in his District, but has become one of the most steady, reliable supporters of the “party line” echoed by UTLA’s current leadership). The charter community really needed to step up ahead of this resolution with a very irate stance voiced by parents, teachers, students, and principals. It needed to be made crystal clear that the students attending charter schools do not cease to be students of color (black and Latino) who are eligible for free and reduced price lunches once they enroll—they do not turn into white, middle class, suburbanites. This may seem glaringly obvious to all of you, but it is most certainly missing from public and media discussions. It is unfortunate that in a landscape of KIPP, Camino Nuevo, Larchmont, etc. CCSA relied so heavily on Families That Can to produce parents as spokespeople to oppose the resolution. There should be plenty of families, teachers, principals, and students invested in the “charter school movement.” This resolution was a tremendous opportunity for CMOs to put themselves out there as entities deeply committed to high quality public education for all youth. If anything, the CCSA and others should have taken the opportunity to shine a spotlight on all of the ways that Beaudry (LAUSD Central HQ), local district leadership, and existing staff at focus schools, make it practically impossible for charters to get a fair shake. In order to highlight the factual nature of this point, CCSA needed only point the Board and public’s attention at the debacle that took place at Huntington Park High School in PSC 2.5—the one that officially put a nail in the coffin of the “community advisory vote.”

Instead of this sort of spirited response, Jed Wallace, CCSA’s CEO issued the following statement:

“While we clearly would have preferred a different result today, we understand the process to reform and improve public education in Los Angeles is challenging and will require resolve. We continue to support the Board in its efforts to move forward with district reform, however, there can be no doubt that the changes approved today impede high-performing charter schools from applying for new schools and create roadblocks to in-district and charter school collaboration… We believe that when parents and the public learn of the incredible results that charters are already demonstrating (for example with the API results to be released on August 31) they will understand at an even deeper level how charter schools are an essential ingredient in reinventing public education in LAUSD and they will redouble their commitment to ensuring that LAUSD fundamentally reforms. Regardless of what happens in the short-term, we will continue our mission to close the achievement gap and provide high-quality educational options to families, and we look forward continue collaborating with the district on these goals.” (Too diplomatic. Where’s the passion? Where’s the argument that any lack in funding for public education in California is not the fault of charter schools? Where is the support for movements like “Think Long,” that seek tax reform in California to get to an expansion for public education funding, the “2012 Kids Education Plan” to shift to per pupil spending and workplace reforms in pursuit of expanded investments, or even “Educate Our State” and its “Wake Up California!” effort to avoid any future cuts in statewide preschool, K-12, or higher ed expenditures? http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-poll-schools-20111120,0,6181051.story This challenge was an incredibly important time to highlight the role of charter schools in the landscape of social and educational justice. This was a moment in which it would have been appropriate to shine a spotlight on Steve Zimmer who ran on a platform of school choice, and the entire Board of Education, immediately after they unanimously named LAUSD’s new high school for the arts after former Superintendent Cortines, a man who believed in collocating charters aside other types of schools in an effort to improve outcomes for all. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/15/local/la-me-0615-arts-high-20110615 http://www.dailynews.com/education/ci_17864545.

Again, I cannot stress how damaging losing the PR war associated with this resolution was. At the end of the day, in the battle of “charter schools are public schools providing an education so excellent that they transform the trajectory of students lives who have been previously trapped by the notion that poverty is destiny,” versus “LAUSD is engaging in a public school giveaway to corporate charter schools supported by billionaires seeking to dismantle public education,” the latter argument won. One of the casualties was the notion that CMOs stand with the 99%, thus making charters easy pickings for groups with narratives such as the ones advanced by the organizers of “Occupy LAUSD” (http://www.utla.net/press/20111021). The other, more significant casualty was to make the components of school choice the bargaining chips on the table during contract negotiations between UTLA and LAUSD. It is a mistake to think UTLA’s back is pinned against the wall because of the lawsuit regarding the application of the Stull Act, or Mike Stryer’s successful collection of enough signatures to force a referendum on teacher evaluations. After all, UTLA’s position on seniority-based layoffs (a.k.a., last in first out, LIFO) was not altered writ large by the decision issued in the Reed case. In fact, with Brown’s signature on AB114, (which is fundamentally, inextricably linked to design and implementation of a system of performance evaluation) along with the rise of popular support for Occupy LAUSD’s contention that schools are underfunded and understaffed, neutralized the issue on LIFO. We are now in an era where firings are unacceptable until the budgetary challenges districts throughout California are addressed. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an argument that I take issue with personally. I believe strongly that we need to tax the top 1%, radically augment the amount of per pupil funding out schools receive, and free up the amount of autonomy districts and individual schools are afforded when it comes to their budgets. However, from a cold, power politics point of view, the notion that UTLA has been neutered by the Reed case, Mike Stryer, the Stull Act, and/or the “Don’t Hold Us Back” coalitions’ support for John Deasy’s desired contract, is a mistaken notion. UTLA is a dues-driven entity. It is not harmed by changes to evaluation/seniority/tenure, but rather, by reductions in membership.

The rapid expansion of a competing labor entity, and/or nonunionized charters would gut UTLA’s political muscle—as would the introduction to public financing, and 100% spending transparency (disclosure) in elections, but that’s a story for another blog entry. As it stands, radical reform to teacher evaluation really doesn’t do much to ruffle Warren Fletcher’s feathers so long as he’s got AB114, and public sentiment against further reductions in force on his side. Using AGT (value added) as part of multiple metrics really isn’t a deal breaker for UTLA, so long as there’s a freeze on any future firings. The moratorium on layoffs ultimately preserves “must place” staffing (a.k.a., the dance of the lemons). And the Reed case merely dictates that must place teachers can’t all end up in high turnover, chronically underperforming schools. UTLA’s leadership was smart to file an injunction in opposition to LAUSD’s pilot evaluation system, hold a press conference organized as a show trial of LAUSD for overcrowded classrooms/understaffed schools, (http://www.utla.net/node/3482) publicly charge the district with running a $55 million surplus that would allow it to follow AB114 and rehire all RIFs from the past year, (http://www.utla.net/node/3474) and challenge the Board of Education’s PSC 2.0 decision to turn Henry Clay Middle School over to Green Dot, as well as the recommendation to turn Jordan High School over to the Partnership for L.A. Schools (without getting 50% of those employed at these sites to support a “conversion” of the sort stipulated in the Charter School Act, under Education Code 47605). From where I’m standing, it’s a great bait and switch to make it seem as though teacher evaluation is the central issue, when it’s really the preservation of current dues-paying membership numbers and the curtailing of any future reduction to UTLA’s membership base by freezing firings, and making sure new campuses are more likely to be occupied by UTLA members, regardless of whether they’re sailing under a traditional, “pilot,” expanded school based management model (ESBMM) flag. In retrospect, it was a mistake for Deasy to eliminate the advisory vote, and replace it with the parent/community advisory process now in place, before the conclusion of collective bargaining.

Read more:
(Public School Choice – Big Picture) http://www.laschoolboard.org/files/PSC%20Parent%20Student%20Community%20Presentation%20to%20BOE.pdf







Read more:
(Elimination of PSC Advisory Vote) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/05/board-of-education-officially-cancels-school-elections-over-school-reform-plans.html





Read more:
(August 30, 2011 PSC 3.0 Resolution) http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0831-lausd-charters-20110831,0,7205500.story

Read more:

(AB114) http://www.utla.net/system/files/utla_ab114.pdf






Read more:
(Stull Act lawsuit) http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-eval-20111117,0,5010697.story






Read more:
(UTLA injunction to stop pilot evaluation plan) http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/10/opinion/la-oe-reisler-utla-teachers-union-20110710




Read more:
(Reed case & LIFO) http://toped.svefoundation.org/2010/10/06/lausd-agrees-to-new-rules-for-teacher-layoffs/







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