LA
10/18/2011 05:08 pm ET | Updated Dec 18, 2011

Occupy LA Protests LAUSD With Members Of UTLA Teachers Union

Occupy LA protesters are teaming up with members of a teachers union Tuesday afternoon to march on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) headquarters. Their goal is to "reclaim" public schools from the 1% -- a group that, in the education industry, includes charter schools, philanthropic foundations and corporate management companies.

Occupy LA's statement on today's action dovetails with many of the talking points that the United Teachers Los Angeles union has released in the past. Grievances include the fact that the LAUSD laid off over one thousand educators and school staffers despite their $55 million surplus, classes are packed with more than 40 students and school libraries are being closed or compromised.

But this afternoon's action is not officially endorsed by the teachers union -- yet.

Jose Lara, one of the lead organizers for today's action and a member of the UTLA board of directors, revealed in a phone call to The Huffington Post that the board of directors voted yesterday to unanimously support the wider Occupy LA movement, and the motion has been referred to the house of representatives for final approval tomorrow.

"We're expecting the vote to be unanimous," said Lara.

Lara also noted the fact that schools superintendent John Deasy, in addition to other top district executives, are earning large salaries that are paid for by foundations run by LA's top dogs -- Eli Broad and Casey Wasserman, to name a few -- and that makes the district vulnerable to corporate manipulation.

"When we go talk at a school meeting, we don't have the same pull that Eli Broad does," joked Lara. But on a more serious note, he said, the influence of people like Eli Broad on the LAUSD means "top-down school reforms that aren't good for our children."

Hundreds of teachers and parents are expected to be at the action, and since the march from City Hall to LAUSD headquarters is planned for 4 pm, Lara hopes that some students can make it as well.

But the UTLA doesn't speak for everyone when it comes to school reform in Los Angeles. Just yesterday, a coalition of local charities and minority groups took out full page ads in the Los Angeles Times, Daily News, and La Opinion directed at UTLA and LAUSD. LA Weekly notes that while the ad's demand, "Don't Hold Us Back," might seem tame, the ad itself is "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."

Claremont Graduate University Professor Charles Taylor Kerchner has more on the coalition that helped put the advertisements together:

Although technically leaderless, the coalition grew from a report issued by the United Way and financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, the ads were sponsored by the Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, Inner City Struggle, Community Coalition, Asian Pacific Legal Center, the Los Angeles Urban League, and Communities for Teaching Excellence. Former school board member Yolie Flores heads the latter. Each of these organizations has been at least somewhat aligned with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the now-thin school board majority.

Like the mayor, the heads of these organizations have ties to ethnic communities, roots in civil rights struggles, and sometimes experience in labor activism. Virtually all are Democrats. So, their opposition to the current state of teacher labor relations is significant. "We need to push both sides," said Veronica Melvin, of Communities for Teaching Excellence.

Lara's response? "It costs a lot of money to run ads like that," he said. "I wonder where that money's coming from."