Friday, October 25, 2013

UTLA: IT’S TIME. Time for a raise & Time for Deasy to go

utla president’s perspective; by Warren Fletcher from the October United Teacher |


We cannot wait any longer

     "As our actions escalate, our focus must always be on our core message: that when you nickel-and-dime teachers and health and human services professionals, you devalue students, and you degrade instruction."

23 October 2013 :: As of the date of this letter, it has been 2,441 days since L.A. teachers and health and human services professionals last received a raise. That’s nearly seven years.

Years of sacrifices

During those nearly seven years, a lot of terrible things happened to public schools, and to public school teachers and students, throughout California. The deepest recession since the 1930s resulted in savage cuts to schools. Across the state, tens of thousands of our fellow educators were RIF’d, class sizes ballooned, and the educational opportunities for every student in the state were deeply undermined.

LAUSD never could have survived that period without our repeated economic sacrifices. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, we, the teachers and health and human services professionals of Los Angeles, took pay cuts, in the form of furlough days, to keep the District afloat.

Our hard work secured new funding

For a time, it looked like the economic sacrifices might never end. But in 2012, we once again stepped up, and we secured a longer-term solution. We worked and battled, and we got Proposition 30 adopted by the voters. We put our credibility on the line when we promised voters (and especially parents) that the new monies that they were voting to assess themselves would go to the classroom, not to the bureaucracy.

Thanks to our hard work, Prop. 30 was approved by the voters in November 2012, and the new tax revenues began to flow in January 2013. It was understood that, because the first installment would be only one-half a year’s worth of revenue, the first monies would be used to “bring us back to even” by canceling all furloughs and reestablishing the full school year.

2013-14: No more excuses

We are now three and a half months into the 2013-14 school year. Since last May, School Board members have repeatedly announced their desire and intention to make “salary restoration” a District priority. Even Superintendent John Deasy has called for “across the board raises” for all employees. He went so far as to state in his “Next Three Years: Policy and Investment” report that “before we invest in any single [new] program” we should first address salaries.

That’s all lovely talk. However, the reality is that the Beaudry bureaucracy is growing by leaps and bounds, and dozens of new high-priced and over-staffed “programs” and “initiatives” and “frameworks” are being rolled out every day, rapidly gobbling up those precious Prop. 30 dollars, the dollars that we promised the voters would go to the classroom.

And of course, we are being told that, despite the infusion of substantial new revenues, the District is suffering from a “structural deficit” that makes consideration of a pay raise for 2013-14 either impractical or impossible.

That’s nonsense. Let’s look at a couple of undisputed facts:

• Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, the state allocation per full-time K-12 student rose by $308 (from $5,266 to $5,574 per child). That’s an increase of 5.8 percent.

• Between those same two years, the District’s total state revenues (including categoricals) increased from $4.934 billion to $5.174 billion. That’s an increase of 4.9 percent.

The District will no doubt follow its time-honored script and cry poverty. But there is absolutely no question that the District is sitting on more money this year than last year. And if the past is a reasonable guide, those new dollars (which rightfully should be funding our long-overdue salary increase) are, as we speak, being rapidly spent for this year and being committed for future years (including the out-year costs of the iPad debacle).

The fact is, this November 6 is the one-year anniversary of the passage of Prop. 30. If the District intended to make the Prop. 30 monies part of a 2013-14 salary increase, they presumably would have done so by now.

If we want to see those dollars in our salary this year, we’re going to have to take the fight to them.

Our work is the District’s mission

Our power is rooted in a basic truth, and we must never be afraid to unequivocally state that truth: The mission of the District is instruction, and we ARE instruction. The teachers and health and human services professionals of LAUSD aren’t just contributors to the District’s mission; our work IS the District’s mission. Our work is where “the rubber meets the road,” and without us, the District has no function. Most parents and community members understand this, and that’s why they are our natural allies in our fight to fund the classroom first, even when that fight is for our own salaries.

To effectively exercise our power, we must be focused in how we state our demands, and we must be willing to back up those demands. Our salary demand is simple: a pay increase for this year that fairly reflects the additional dollars coming in from Prop. 30 and that begins the process of paying us back for the sacrifices we made during the past four years.

To back up that demand, we must all be willing to engage in a series of escalating actions. We must be united and disciplined at every step. The first step: We must draw the public’s attention to the injustice of our seven-year salary drought and to the District’s refusal to make us whole for our economic sacrifices.

To that end, a mass UTLA rally will be held outside the Beaudry Building after school on Wednesday, November 13. That rally will have a single focus: to demand a salary increase for all of our members THIS YEAR. While it is only the first step, it is an extremely important part of the fight. All of California will be watching, to gauge our members’ level of support for and commitment to a raise.

As our actions escalate, our focus must always be on our core message: that when you nickel-and-dime teachers and health and human services professionals, you devalue students and you degrade instruction.

In any escalating series of labor actions, the final step, the ultimate weapon, is a strike. This is a step that is never taken lightly, and that, of course, is never entered into without overwhelming member support. Nonetheless, if we are serious about our salary demands, we cannot be afraid to broach the subject, first with each other, member to member, educator to educator, and then with the broader community.

It is an inescapable fact that greater rewards invariably entail greater risks. As we move forward to demand, and to eventually win, the salary justice that we deserve, we, together as educators, will weigh the risks and rewards before us.

But, if we are to be successful, if we are to truly do right by our students, we must never be timid in demanding that our work be fairly compensated and that our economic sacrifices be repaid. The day we are too fainthearted to do that is the day that we become complicit in the devaluing and cheapening of a public school education.

We owe ourselves better than that. More importantly, we owe our students better than that.

breaking news from the UTLA website |


Supt. John Deasy announces resignation

UTLA issued the following statement in reaction to the news that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy plans to resign in February.

24 October 2013  ::  “It is no secret that UTLA has had major concerns with John Deasy’s leadership. Nonetheless the future of LAUSD is not about one man. The challenge going forward is to make sure students and schools get the resources they so badly need after five punishing years of recession. UTLA believes new leadership at LAUSD holds the potential to make that happen,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher.

UTLA members have made it clear that Deasy’s leadership was not taking the District in the right direction. In April, 91% percent of 17,500 members polled found “no confidence” in his leadership. We later conducted an in-depth member-wide survey, and the Superintendent scored just 1.4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

In recent months, Deasy’s role in the billion- dollar iPad debacle has been especially troubling. First he served as a pitch man in an Apple promotional video and then he committed the District to purchasing the devices through a suspect and misleading contracting process.

Deasy has ignored the concerns of the District’s teachers and health and human services professionals for a very long time. UTLA is hopeful that the School Board and the entire LAUSD community will take this opportunity to refocus the District back to its most basic mission: providing every student with a well-rounded education.


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