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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Labor unions struggle for Teachers Rights!

2011-01-16 "Dissident L.A. teachers want more from their union; NewTLA, a pro-union faction, works for reform within the organization" by Steve Lopez from "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
Quietly and carefully, a movement of dissident teachers has been taking shape within United Teachers Los Angeles. It began last fall, with e-mails and telephone calls among a group of disaffected and disappointed teachers. By year's end, some 50 of them had volunteered to become official members of UTLA's policy-making body, the House of Representatives.
On Jan. 8, the group held its first strategy session. At the meeting, which I attended, teachers shared their grievances with both UTLA and LAUSD and talked about their plan to lobby for dramatic changes in union leadership and focus.
They've even named their fledgling caucus: NewTLA.
"I think there is a silent majority of teachers who are very frustrated with the status quo," Mike Stryer said in opening remarks at the Jan. 8 meeting, held at Mercado La Paloma south of downtown and attended by 21 NewTLA members.
Stryer, a Fairfax High teacher and former school board candidate, helped establish NewTLA last fall with his friend Jordan Henry, a Santee Education Complex teacher.
Henry had been considering a campaign to succeed outgoing UTLA president A.J. Duffy but pulled out in November after the UTLA board of directors moved up the self-nomination deadline, making it harder for him to officially declare his candidacy.
"As the call for reform in public education has mounted locally and nationally, UTLA leadership has emphatically chosen to double down on existing positions rather than ante up to new conversations," Henry wrote to supporters on Nov. 16 in a letter mapping out a different strategy for change.
"I have conceded," he wrote, "that there is more to be gained aggressively building a base than there is steadily chipping away at a machine."
Henry and Stryer recruited like-minded reform-starved teachers to volunteer to fill vacancies in UTLA's House, and they now occupy about 20% of the House seats. Henry called the uprising "an unprecedented event in our union's history."
At the Jan. 8 meeting, Henry and Stryer told teachers that by merely attending meetings on a regular basis (last Wednesday was their first), they will be able to influence policy discussions, since there may not be another bloc of like-minded members as large as theirs.
With another 90 or so House vacancies coming up over the next several months, the group's goal is to grab as many additional seats as possible by making their agenda known.
So what's the agenda?
Let me list the grievances I heard laid out Jan. 8:
Randy Grant, a Fairfax High teacher, said that UTLA has become as unresponsive and dysfunctional as LAUSD and that the union has utterly failed to design or demand better professional development programs than the antiquated and ineffective ones now in place.
Trebor Jacquez of Santee said schools that have the biggest challenges are losing their best teachers with no intervention from the union. Several present insisted on ending the practice of using only tenure to determine layoffs and transfers.
George Crowder of White Elementary School said the union has worked hard to ensure that good teachers are treated fairly but has also protected ineffective teachers.
Natasha Morse of Los Angeles High marveled at how, as a teacher in just her third year, she gets virtually no input or oversight from administrators, colleagues or union representatives about how she's doing and how she can do better.
"I shouldn't be left alone. They should be worried about me," said Morse, who wondered, like others, why there can't be a union-fostered culture of collaboration among teachers who can help educate one another on best practices and experiences.
Jose Navarro, a Sylmar High instructor and 2009 California teacher of the year, said the union shoots down rather than supports teacher-led reform ideas.
Mark Muskrath of Santee said union leaders waste time on things like irrelevant foreign policy resolutions while "throwing younger teachers under the bus."
Kristen Weinstein of Roscomare Elementary wants to know why there can't be holistic teacher evaluations with input from students, teachers, administrators, parents and anyone else who might identify both weaknesses and strengths. A number of teachers spoke up for better evaluations of administrators as well.
James Encinas of Westminster Avenue Elementary said he doesn't know exactly how to construct a better teacher-evaluation system but wants UTLA to lead the discussion rather than avoid it.
There was little discussion and no consensus on whether student test scores ought to be considered in teacher evaluations, a national trend LAUSD has supported and UTLA has adamantly opposed. Teachers at the meeting neither embraced nor dismissed the possibility, but Stryer later said evaluations should "perhaps" include student testing.
"What's frustrating for many is that the union leadership hasn't come up with a proactive proposal of their own," Stryer said.
Can that and other entrenched UTLA policies and traditions end, just because 50 teachers want them to, or will the reformers merely motivate others to rally around the old guard?
"I'm optimistic," Henry later said, calling the enthusiasm and support encouraging. "I want to build this union up, not tear it down."
In fact, many of the teachers who attended the Jan. 8 meeting emphasized that they're not anti-union. They simply believe their union would be far more productive if it quit wasting so much time on contractual and political issues and resisting change out of hand and more time actively supporting teachers in the classroom while becoming a leading voice on reforms that benefit teachers and students.
Teachers who care "have got to keep fighting" for those changes, said Navarro, "because the kids deserve it."
(For more information, go to

War against Labor

2011-01-13 "OPINION: John Deasy a disappointing choice for LAUSD superintendent" by David Lyell, LAUSD substitute teacher
I'm disappointed by the appointment of John Deasy as the superintendent to the LAUSD School Board. The school board didn't even bother to consider any other candidates, which is very strange. The public needs to remember that the mayor, who celebrated this appointment, after recently attacking UTLA, was also handed a vote of "no confidence" by teachers at eight of the 10 schools he takes credit for operating.
The reality is that the teachers at those school sites operate those schools. The mayor, who rarely shows up, only operates them on paper, and dismally at that. We need to remember that this is the same mayor who, in 2009, spent 15 times as much as his nearest opponent on his campaign, then refused to debate him.
Deasy embraces Value-Added. Value-added testing is yet another example a punitive, ineffective, dictatorial management style. A July 2010 report by the Institute of Education Sciences concluded that, "more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher." An August 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute warned in a report that it would be "unwise" to give substantial weight to VAM scores in measuring teacher effectiveness. Researchers for RAND concluded that, "the research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers."
LAUSD Board Members cry about a budget crisis, yet spend $100 million per year on non-mandated assessments — that is, testing not required by law — and $43 million on mini-districts. In December 2010, they fired clerical and custodial workers at school sites after firing teachers and instituting furloughs, and they transferred hundreds of other clerical and custodial staff. Now Cortines says we need to take more furlough days.
We need to use the Federal Jobs money for its intended purpose: to save jobs. We need to spend that $143 million that is wasted on testing and mini-districts, and spend it on teachers, clerical, and custodial staff.
Aside from his employment record, serious ethical questions remain concerning Deasy's background. In addition to the LMU and University of Louisville scandals, Deasy comes from the Gates Foundation. Gates — whose company Microsoft was literally sued by the US Government for antitrust allegations and using market dominance to stifle competition — is now an advocate for, of all things, competition. Like Oprah, Gates is just wrong. Instead of asking why it's so hard to fire teachers, they need to ask why school districts can't carry out their administrative duties in a timely manner.
Gates has even recently advocated for larger class sizes, and videotaping teachers. That's how out of touch he is. Our schools are already so darn top-heavy with administrators, classrooms are under-staffed, and teachers are under-paid, over-worked, and under-appreciated. In Gates' world classrooms would host one thousand students. Teachers would have every twitch scrutinized by a panel of six-figure education "experts" who then meet with the teacher to tell them what they need to do to improve. Where I come from, that sounds like a colossal waste of tax-payer dollars. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but those are the type of policies he advocates.
LAUSD is insanely top-heavy with administrators who make well over six figures. We need less bureaucracy. A test result cannot teach a student. A teacher can. It's very strange how the very people who claim to care about children the most are the same individuals who do everything humanly possible to actually avoid having to spend time in a classroom. They love their cushy six-figure jobs.
We need real reformers who want to work with teachers instead of demonizing them. As it is, 50 percent of all teachers quit within the first five years. The numbers are even higher in charter schools. Fewer than one in seven charters produce better results, and many are simply out of control, as we saw with the Parent Trigger scandal in Compton. Charters are the new deregulation, and we all know how well that worked with the banks.
We need leaders who recognize that the way to improve education is to support the work teachers do. Teachers are responsible for student achievement, not administrators, not tests.
Comments -
Posted by Leonard Isenberg on 1/13/11 at 09:49 AM
David, An excellent article that I would like to republish at perdaily. That being said, I think we are both aware that whether it is Brewer, Cortines, or now Deasy, those in control at LAUSD and the politicians at the state and federal level that keep them in power have precisely the public education system they want. Rather then continue to respond to their monologue of nebulous educational platitude without any substance that never comes to fruition, we at perdaily are trying to create a national clearinghouse for ideas that show the national scope of this premeditated failure of public education, but also shows a specific viable alternative that is presently blacked out of the mainstream media that publishes no criticism of charter schools, value-added assessment, or merit pay- reminiscent of Pravda, Isvestia, and Tass state controlled media under the old Soviet Union. Even though what you and I and the others you will find listed at perdaily represent the majority view of what educators know at the school level (microcosm) and what academic know in terms of data and historical context (macrocosm), neither LAUSD nor UTLA will ever support these ideas nor will the media report it until we. I respect your intellect and would enjoy publicizing our shared concerns. Best, Lenny
Posted by Leonard Isenberg on 1/14/11 at 11:09 AM
[...] According to Professor Diane Ravitch and others who have looked at value-added assessment, it has a 45% margin of error, which makes an assessment of 17% and 65% are mathematically indistinguishable. Furthermore, there is a more fundamental question: Why are we assessing the effectiveness of teacher based on how well their students do, when their students for the most part are years behind grade level because of the continued practice of social promotion, which gives single-subject credentialed teachers with no remedial skills and a substantive course to teacher, students who do not have the foundational skills in Language Arts or math to be engaged. So we should make the teaching the whipping boy of failed LAUSD administrative practice or worse yet, have them give passing grades or fix assessments to save their jobs and avoid being targeted by mafia-like LAUSD administrators. And finally, value-added assessment will not get rid of the truly abysmal teachers who will find a way around this assessment of their effectiveness, because they blindly support the incompetence of LAUSD administrators who are at the root of this long failed system. Isn't it strange that public education reform reforms everything but the corrupt and dysfunctional school districts at the root of the problem. Worse than giving them a pass, it actually gives them a crucial role in all fail reform from charters, where they are the LEA oversight to pilot schools where they have an absolute veto over who will be the principal, along with their right to unilateral abrogate the UTLA/LAUSD Collective Bargaining Agreement. Check out to see that this fraud is going on throughout the U.S. and join us in positing a specific viable alternative model for real education reform where all- students, parents, teachers, and administrators are held responsible under a system of two-way accountability in lieu of the present top/down totalitarian model that terrorizes teachers into submission.
2011-01-13 "Protests Begin as Brown Announces His ‘Draconian’ Budget for California", article by Lisa Roellig, photo-essay by Bill Hackwell ( hckwll [at] ), posted at "Indybay" newswire
Hundreds came out to speak out and protest against new governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal that targets the poorest and most vulnerable populations of the state. Brown characterized his new budget as ‘Draconian’. This helpless answer to the economic crisis facing the working and poor of California illustrates the need for a broad grass roots movement from the very people who are most affected.
Newly elected Governor Jerry Brown’s 2011-2012 budget proposal slashes $12.5 billion dollars from essential health and human services. Programs that serve the most vulnerable sectors of our communities including services for the disabled, the mentally ill and drug addicted, and child and healthcare for low-income families, all face enormous cuts or complete elimination under Brown’s proposal.
Immediately following the announcement of Brown’s new ‘draconian’ budget Oakland’s O.A.S.I.S. Clinic, along with many other service providing agencies and organizations participated in a press conference in the State House denouncing this new and devastating attack on the most disenfranchised groups in California. Speakers at the press conference included Diana Sylvestre, M.D. Executive Director of O.A.S.I.S. Clinic, who spoke in defense of the drug treatment assistance program, Drug Medi-Cal, Evan LeVang of the Independent Living Services of Northern California, Glenn Backes, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The Capitol press conference was part of statewide actions organized by Health and Human Services Network. HHS Network, held similar press conferences and rallies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Fresno.
After the press conference, Single Payer Now and the California Healthcare Professional Student Alliance (CAHPSA) launched a kick off rally for the California Universal Healthcare Act, CA Senate Bill 810 (SB810). The keynote speaker of the rally was SB810’s author, Senator Mark Leno. Other speakers included healthcare providers and students, who spoke on the critical need of a single-payer healthcare system, a system that would guarantee healthcare for all Californians by elimating the multi-billion dollar parasitic insurance industry. Hundreds of healthcare students and single payer supporters held placards that read “Healthcare Yes! Insurance Companies No!”
O.A.S.I.S. Clinic along with C.O.R.E. Medical Clinic, Sacramento, joined in the demand for healthcare for all and the continuation of all funding to critical and life saving health and human service programs, including the drug treatment program, Drug Medi-Cal.
Despite proof that drug treatment is highly cost effective and studies show that for every dollar spent on treatment, up to $7 is saved in reduced criminal activity, incarceration, and spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C. the Drug Medi-Cal program is in jeopardy of losing its funding. Drug Treatment also improves family stability, employment and wellness. It has been demonstrated that drug treatment reduces mortality by 30% and helps women deliver healthier babies.
OASIS, a community-based not-for-profit medical clinic located in Oakland, is a national leader in the care of underserved patients with serious medical conditions like addictions, hepatitis C, and HIV. Its patients and peer educators are recognized statewide for their education, outreach and advocacy efforts.
For more information about Oasis Clinic and other organizations participating in Monday’s action in Sacramento go to the links below:
- Oasis Clinic []
- C.O.R.E. Medical Clinic []
- California Health Professional Student Alliance []
- Health and Human Services Network of California []
- Single Payer Now []
- Independent Living Services of Northern California []

2011-01-13 photo by Bill Hackwell showing Medical Students for Universal Healthcare

2011-01-13 photo by Bill Hackwell showing Medical Students for Universal Healthcare