Even though contract negotiations between the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) haven't even been scheduled yet, Superintendent John Deasy's supporters are gearing up for a long fight.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education sent out an email action alert urging supporters to call and email individual members of the Los Angeles School board, as well as UTLA president Warren Fletcher, and tell them to support Superintendent Deasy's proposed contract changes. He explained a few of them in a Los Angeles Times op-ed last July:
- "Mutual consent in hiring": schools should do their own staff hiring, and not be obligated to hire displaced teachers.
- "A robust and meaningful evaluation system": teachers should undergo a standardized evaluation system across the district that factors in student achievement.
- "A better process for granting tenure": the district should set the bar for tenure higher than the current two year standard, which is mandated by state law. After tenure is granted, there should be a "significant salary increase."
- "Compensation reform": high-performing teachers and administers should be rewarded with annual raises, and additional bonuses should be given to educators who achieve in underperforming schools. There should be no more raises for additional degrees earned or length of career.
- "No cap or limits on teacher-led reforms and innovations": all schools and teachers should have the right to design and implement their own curriculums on their own campuses.
Teacher contract reforms similar to Deasy's proposal, including a new evaluation system and pay increases according to teacher performance, were implemented in the Washington D.C. school district under the now-deposed Chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2010.
In a recent analysis published this week that examined Rhee's impact on D.C. schools, the Washington Post found that despite her lightning-quick speed, hundreds of layoffs, and the alienation of some teachers and parents, Rhee's impact is could end up being ultimately positive:
Today, teachers are better paid and evaluated more closely. A landmark labor contract gives school principals more control over who is in classrooms. Basic central functions including purchasing, textbook delivery and food service, although not perfect, are viewed as much improved. Private foundations, enthused by Rhee’s emphasis on teacher quality and willingness to take on a politically potent union, poured millions of dollars into the public schools.
The UTLA have demands that are in direct opposition to some of Deasy's proposals. They include the immediate re-instatement of 662 laid-off teachers and education staffers, which could contradict Deasy's proposal that school have more hiring autonomy.
But the UTLA could face an uphill battle in the upcoming contract negotiations, especially considering that leadership has remained mum on alternatives to Deasy's new contract items.
After an interview with UTLA president Warren Fletcher, Claremont Graduate University professor Charles Taylor Kerchner (Kerchner has written two books on education unions) concluded this in his blog for the Huffington Post:
The problem is that UTLA has been largely mute about alternatives to the current system, which virtually everyone, including Fletcher, agrees doesn't work. But UTLA's lack of a strong viable alternative and opposition to any use of student test score data for evaluation, puts it on the defensive. Fletcher says internal work on developing an "intellectually honest and durable" system is underway, but that it takes time. But time is short because both the school administration and the newly attentive public have approached this round of bargaining with a righteous urgency.
But it isn't all conflict with the LAUSD and UTLA -- on Friday, Deasy, Fletcher and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa co-authored a blog for the Huffington Post urging congress to pass the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Bill -- something that would pour $30 billion into schools nationwide. From their blog:
Here is another simple idea that our children understand but that we adults seem to have lost sight of: fair is fair. It is simply unfair to send some children to good quality private schools for $25,000 or more and then maintain that $7,000 -- California's average per-pupil spending -- is anywhere close to adequate to educate the rest. In Los Angeles, 84% of our students are Black or Latino and 76% qualify for free or reduced lunches. They deserve the same educational opportunities as their peers. The educational futures of these children must not be determined by their economic status or zip code.
As contract negotiations loom, both the LAUSD and the UTLA would do well to focus on the common goal that was outlined in their collaborative piece: an excellent education for all of Los Angeles' children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.