Friday, November 02, 2012


L.A. Unified applies for grant without teachers union

-- Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now |

Fresno Teachers, Fresno Unified close in on $37.3m federal grant

Union discusses proposal revisions.

By Barbara Anderson - The Fresno Bee |

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy during a meeting of the Los Angeles School Board in February. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Photo: LAUSD Supt. John Deasy during a meeting of the Los Angeles School Board in February. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

November 1, 2012 | 12:00 pm  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District has decided to submit an application for a high-profile federal grant without the participation of the teachers union.

Current federal rules for “Race to the Top” grants require a written commitment to the terms by the local teachers union. But United Teachers Los Angeles officials have steadfastly objected to the district's application, mostly because of the cost involved, they said.

L.A. Unified could qualify for up to $40 million. The funds are modest compared to the school system's multibillion-dollar annual budget, but officials said they could provide crucial services to students as well as additional jobs.

“I have instructed staff to submit an application with all required signatures except that of the teachers union,” said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy in a statement Thursday. “I want to make the case that here in Los Angeles, after months of trying repeatedly to form a partnership for youth and faculty on this issue our students should not be penalized due to the absence of a [union] signature,” said Deasy. 

UTLA leaders had expressed concern that the district's plans could overextend the financially struggling school system. Union President Warren Fletcher said he also was worried that the grant could lock in practices and policies that still needed to be settled by negotiations among officials, the teachers union and the union that represents principals.

Deasy has said repeatedly that he is disappointed that that the union has chosen not to join with the nation's second-largest school system to win the competitive grant. As recently as Monday, Deasy indicated that any hope for obtaining the grant was lost.

Friday, Nov. 02, 2012 | 12:53 AM  :: Fresno Teachers Association leaders met late into the night Thursday discussing revisions that Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson hoped could lead to their endorsement of a multimillion-dollar federal grant application.

Hanson said early Thursday evening that he was optimistic that more than nine hours of meetings with teacher union leaders would lead to their endorsement of the $37.3 million application.

"I'm very pleased where we are right now," Hanson said outside the Fresno Teachers Association headquarters in northeast Fresno after emerging from the meeting about 6 p.m. While the superintendent shied away from saying an agreement was in hand, Hanson said district officials "would expect to come back and tie this off face to face."

The FTA emerged from its closed-door meeting about midnight to offer a memo of understanding to attach to the application. Hanson, who was camped outside with grant supporters Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Councilman Oliver Baines, went inside for additional discussions. No annoncement had been made as of 12:30 a.m.

The marathon meeting between FUSD and the FTA came just a day before the deadline to submit the application to the U.S. Department of Education. The deadline is 1:30 p.m. today Pacific Time, and district officials said Thursday they would need the signature of FTA President Eva Ruiz by 11 a.m. to make that deadline.

diane feinstein

MARK CROSSE/THE FRESNO BEE | Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson was trying to work out a compromise with Fresno Teachers Association leaders on a federal grant application.

    Union leaders have balked at signing the 235-page application, objecting to its new teacher evaluation system based on test scores and state standards, as well as concerns with other working conditions. The Race to the Top application requires the teachers' union sign-off.

    Hanson said "a broad variety of issues" had been discussed but declined to name them, saying it was best left to a joint statement that he hoped to make with the FTA.

    Ruiz has said the union's executive board also had not been given time to review the document and was handed new pages on Oct. 26, only four days before the original deadline. Thursday evening, Hanson acknowledged that "not everybody on the executive board had read everything all along." But he said he was "very confident we were able to take care of issues."

    Community leaders ranging from Swearengin to pastors and business leaders have put pressure on the union to sign the application.

    On Thursday, the Children's Movement, a citizen-led, nonpartisan group working to improve the well-being and education of children, released a video encouraging the union to endorse the application. It included statements from Fresno State President John Welty and Fresno County Superior Court Judge David Gottlieb.

    Linda Gleason, a manager of the Children's Movement, spent Thursday afternoon and early evening outside the FTA headquarters waiting for the results of the meeting. "Let's get this done," she said. "We need to be able to compete for these resources."

    Gleason was joined by Elaine Robles-McGraw, community revitalization manager for the city of Fresno and a member of the district's graduation task force. Robles-McGraw said she was ready to wait.

    "This is bigger than all of us," she said. "It's about the children we all have a responsibility to."

    Later in the evening, Jymme Foote, president of the West Fresno Ministerial Association, arrived to join the small vigil: "This is a big issue for our community and our children." He said he saw the meeting as an opportunity "for a leap forward in our city's unity."

    If Fresno Unified succeeds in getting the union president's signature, it will have succeeded where other districts in the state have failed, including Los Angeles Unified School District.

    On Thursday, L.A. Superintendent John Deasy said he was sending off his district's application for a $40 million federal grant without the teachers' union endorsement, the Associated Press reported.

    It may be purely a symbolic gesture. Federal Education Department officials said Los Angeles Unified's application will be considered incomplete without the teachers' union support.

    UTLA President Warren Fletcher has steadfastly refused to sign the application, citing long-term costs of the programs, the AP reported. Fletcher reiterated his concerns in a statement Thursday, saying the grant would be fiscally irresponsible and would cost more to administer than it would bring in.

    Hanson said Thursday night that the Fresno Unified administrative team "came in ready to listen and work out issues."

    Fresno Unified proposes using its grant money to improve literacy in pre-kindergarten through third grade classes by teaching students in smaller groups and giving them tablet computers.

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