Monday, March 11, 2013

UTLA TO VOTE ON AGGRESSIVE STAND AGAINST DEASY POLICIES + ‘Initiative for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve’

Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now |

March 8, 2013 |  2:26 pm  ::  The Los Angeles teachers union has scheduled an April vote for an initiative that would, if passed, call for a more aggressive posture against the leadership of the L.A. Unified School District.

The goal is to get a majority of teachers to push back against policies adopted by Supt. John Deasy and the Board of Education, while also offering an alternative approach to improving academic achievement in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The effort comes in the wake of this month's school board elections, which left unsettled a joust over the path of future school-improvement efforts. Union-backed incumbent Steve Zimmer prevailed, as did incumbent Monica Garcia, a strong Deasy backer. Deasy likely emerged with a sometimes fragile, but workable majority on most issues. 

“The ‘strategy’ of closed-door negotiations around single issues without a broad public campaign to defend and promote public education is failing miserably,” said union activist David Rapkin in a recent online posting to other teachers. “Out-foxing the enemy at the negotiations table is a losing strategy. It ignores the fact that without building real grassroots power around a broad vision for public education, and a vision that includes our power to wage a popular strike, we cannot win in this political and economic climate.”

The union ballot language speaks of “collaborating with parents, students, school communities, and other educational allies and advocates” on a citywide campaign. It also calls for negotiations with district officials on a range of issues — and ending a defensive strategy attempting to block or modify district proposals as they appear one after another.

The goals include reversing budget cuts affecting jobs and classrooms and ending the practice of re-staffing low-performing schools and minimizing the use of standardized tests. Another target is the use of “value-added” formulas in evaluations, which rate instructors based on how much students have learned.

The union “demands should include reduced class sizes, full staffing of our schools, restored funding of Adult and Early Childhood Education, equity and access for all students, safe and clean schools, better pay for all school employees, a stop to excessive unnecessary student ... testing use, an end to reconstitution and school giveaways,” in the language of the resolution.

Backers said they were inspired by the activism behind last year's Chicago teachers strike, although they said a strike might not be necessary here. Some organizers are especially upset over the recent decision to re-staff Crenshaw High School in Leimert Park.

The school district declined to comment on the effort. United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher also had no immediate response.

The initiative petition had 1,130 valid signatures — enough to compel the union leadership to schedule a vote under union rules.

Friday at 2:41pm: The story is unclear. Is there a movement among some teachers to force their union to take a stronger, more aggressive stance or to head in a different direction? The story keeps referring to "the union" and a "union ballot" but then says that this upcoming vote derives from a teacher petition, and that UTLA president Fletcher had "no immediate response." Hope this gets cleared up...This union leadership seems pretty weak, so it would be interesting if there are dissenting teachers trying to push UTLA.


‘Initiative for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve’

from the UTLA website |

Dear UTLA Member,

A petition was submitted in January to the UTLA President titled Initiative for the Schools LA Students Deserve.

The text of the initiative is available below, and will be published in the upcoming issue of United Teacher.

Signatures were delivered to UTLA on February 20, 2013. The UTLA membership department has completed verification of membership status on the signatures received relative to the above cited initiative.

We have received 1,130 valid signatures, which complies with the requirement of the UTLA Constitution for the initiative to be placed before the membership for a vote. 

The initiative will be placed before the membership for a vote based on the timeline indicated at the Board of Directors meeting of February 27, 2013. Voting packets will be distributed at the March 20 Area Meeting. Voting will take place at school sites and at UTLA Tuesday, April 2 through Wednesday, April 10. Ballots will be counted Thursday, April 11, and results will be immediately announced.

If, after reviewing the initiative, you wish to submit a pro or con statement, the deadline is Monday, March 11 at 4 pm. The suggested word count for best readability is from 300 to 350 words.

Statements must be submitted to Kim Turner in the Communications Department by email ( or fax (213-487-3319). Her phone number is 213-368-6252, if you wish to confirm receipt of your submission. Thank you.

Initiative for the Schools LA Students Deserve

Whereas, LAUSD has devastated schools and school communities over the past several years with class size increases, layoffs of teachers, librarians, nurses, and support personnel, top-down reconstitutions, and budget cuts that negatively impact students.

Whereas, ULTA has neither mobilized, nor organized its own membership, nor has it reached out to build alliances with community forces in a meaningful and consistent way to combat these attacks from LAUSD and promote alternatives.

Whereas, teachers’ unions in other cities have built strong campaigns for better schools alongside school communities by mobilizing the membership and fighting for a series of critical issues as opposed to the current UTLA practice of negotiating one issue at a time without activating our members, weakening and dividing us.

Be it therefore resolved that UTLA be a force for positive school change by actively collaborating with parents, students, school communities and other educational allies and advocates to create a city-wide campaign on the 'Initiative for the Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve.' UTLA area leadership will participate in the planning and implementation of the campaign.

Further, UTLA will begin a strategy of negotiations with the district on the collective bargaining agreement focusing on a set of issues that matter to teachers and communities, as opposed to the current strategy of opening negotiations around only one issue at a time. These demands should include:

  • Reduced class sizes
  • Full staffing of our schools
  • Restored funding of Adult and Early Childhood Education
  • Equity and access for all students
  • Safe and clean schools
  • Better pay for all school employees
  • Stop to excessive unnecessary student testing and VAM/AGT use
  • End reconstitution and school giveaways

Further, UTLA will allocate staff and other resources to organize this campaign. This could include steps like the creation of an organizing department and a research department. This reorganization will strengthen UTLA through member engagement and mobilization and will not negatively impact continued contract enforcement.

Finally, UTLA will plan a series of escalating actions, including preparing to strike if necessary, to fight for the demands of the campaign. The first action will take place before the end of the 2012-13 school year to protest issuance of layoff notices, further class size increases, and school destabilization.

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