By By Hillel Aron| LA Weekly | http://bit.ly/nNZhd2
The kids aren't alright>>
Mon., Oct. 17 2011 at 9:15 AM | Today, full page ads appear in the L.A. Times, Daily News and La Opinion taken out by Don't Hold Us Back -- respected organizations calling out United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD for letting kids fail. The new supergroup includes The United Way, The Urban League, Community Coalition, Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Communities for Teaching Excellence.
The ad's bland wording at first seems a bit "so what?" but it's actually written in code to UTLA leaders, who have helped the local teachers union gain a reputation as one of the most anti-reform big-city education unions in the U.S. Here's a translation:
In one line, the ad says teachers should "be rewarded for academic excellence."
That sounds normal, right?
But in fact, that idea has for years been vehemently opposed by UTLA. UTLA has fiercely fought efforts to reward the most effective teachers, or the teachers who take on the toughest assignments, by giving them financial sweeteners -- merit pay.
Another line in the ad seems equally inarguable -- that kids should have well-trained teachers "regardless of where their school is located."
Who would oppose that?
<<Even Obama is sick of teachers' union practices that hold back poor kids.
UTLA, for one. Thanks largely to the union, the most experienced teachers in L.A. are not assigned to difficult, poor schools -- Watts, or the Eastside, for example.
Instead, LAUSD sends inexperienced newbie teachers to the poorest, most difficult neighborhoods.
Education reformers find the practice appalling.
The ad urges newspaper readers -- presumably a lot of people with kids in school -- to call or email Superintendent John Deasy, individual members of the elected Los Angeles Unified School District Board, and the UTLA led by Warren Fletcher.
Veronica Melvin, of Communities for Teaching Excellence, headed by ex-LAUSD board member Yolie Flores, says the ad is intended to clue in the public to the fact that there's "a movement afoot to really push the district and union toward making progress -- to realize quality education for L.A.'s youth."
What's fascinating about the crowd behind this ad is that it is heavy with key minority groups and most of the groups have serious, real track real records in helping under-served people. And: these groups are dominated by Democrats.
Ten years ago, most of these people would have been extremely reluctant to call out UTLA.
That would have been seen as anti-union.
But with Los Angeles kids circling the drain (and remember the frightening fact that LAUSD educates one in every eight or nine kids in all of California) and with the union fighting most attempts at change, those days seem over.
This ad is more proof of that.
"Everybody, including the African American community, none of us should sit on the sidelines," says Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president of Community Coalition. "We live with the consequences. We've got to weigh in and weigh in early."
"Without public pressure, both sides will stalemate," says Melvin.
Don't Hold Us Back is demanding a new contract for teachers that firms up what school reformers (including LAUSD Superintendent Deasy) have been suggesting for years:
-- a way of evaluating teachers based on their own performance in the class
-- an end to the "last hired, first fired" practice that looks solely at teacher seniority and not at teacher competence
-- reinstituting full Public School Choice, which allows outside groups to take over flailing public schools. The LAUSD Board of Education weakened Public School Choice in late August.
The school board meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. It's guaranteed that every one of the LAUSD School Board members will have read this ad. (And figured out the coded messages almost instantly.)
Here are a few numbers listed in the ad, if you want to call and ask why the adults are digging in their heels while students fail:
UTLA President Warren Fletcher, 213-368-6267, email@example.com
LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia, 213-241-6180, firstname.lastname@example.org
And some of the UTLA water-carriers on the LAUSD school board:
Steve Zimmer, 213-241-6387, email@example.com
Bennett Kayser, 213-241-5555, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marguerite LaMotte, 213-241-6382, email@example.com
smf: FOLLOWING THE MONEY/CONNECTING THE DOTS: The photo caption "The kids aren't alight" and the expression "Supergroup" lead one to ask:" Who?"
Q: Who is Hillel Aron?
A: He's a freelance writer who wrote as good as expose as any about how the "reformers-with-deep-pockets (RWDP)" tried to buy the school board elections here.
Apparently Mr. Aron has either drunk the RWDP Kool-Aid or has hired himself out to them. His Call to Action in the article is no longer that of the skeptical reporter - but instead that of The True Believer. And, though the RWDP paid a tidy chunk o' change to get their ad in the Times, the Daily News and La Opinion – they got their message out for free in the LA Weekly. Of course, the ads in the LA Weekly tend to be outcall massage services and medicinal marijuana dispensaries. (In their defense - those businesses only make the slightest pretense at being in businesses other than they are.)
Q: And who is this 'Supergroup' – are they the' Supermen' Davis Guggenheim has foretold?
#29: A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations. [see: HOW TO CREATE A FAUX GRASSROOTS ED REFORM ORGANIZATION IN 12 EASY STEPS! Posted by Sue Peters on seattleducation2011]
#30. Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.
Community Coalition, Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, and Communities for Teaching Excellence are Broad/Gates/Walton Foundation bought-and-paid-for Astroturf Groups with bought-and-paid for track records..
Nothing less, and, quoth-the-raven, nothing more.
The rest are previously existing issue oriented groups that have been co-opted by billionaire philanthropy.. What you say, The Urban League? Yes. The Urban League, which operates hybrid/charter-like school schools with Broad and Gates support.
Surely not The United Way?
Yes. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles – the former Community Chest – a ‘brand’ which used to be an alliance of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and PTA and USO and The March of Dimes and Boys and Girls Clubs and Scouts, etc.--are that no more. UWGLA is now a civic-booster/political action organization indistinguishable from George Bobbitt's Zenith Chamber of Commerce …with an anti-labor-bent, aligned with the foundations and RWDP interests; Mayor Tony, developers and dark side of electoral politics in LA.
Walsh: Forget it Jake, It’s only Chinatown.