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L.A. Teachers Strike

Will Los Angeles Teachers Strike Jan. 10?

A state-appointed fact-finding panel mostly punted on unresolved equity demands that form the heart of what Los Angeles’ teacher union has framed as a fight to save L.A.’s “civic institution of public education.”

Bill Raden

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Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Los Angeles, December 15. (Photo: Bill Raden)

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to  braden@capitalandmain.com, @BillRaden.


 

Fasten your seatbelts Los Angeles, it’s going to be a bumpy strike. That was the subtext to a tumultuous week that saw over 50,000 L.A. teachers, students and families take to the streets Saturday to support a union faced with budgetary saber-rattling by Los Angeles Unified, and that climaxed on Wednesday with United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl setting a January 10 walkout date — unless Los Angeles Unified negotiators meet key union demands for investments in the district’s highest-poverty students.

Caputo-Pearl’s announcement came a day after L.A. Unified superintendent Austin Beutner erroneously claimed that the union had accepted the district’s six percent pay raise offer, as recommended in Tuesday’s report by state-appointed fact-finders who also urged LAUSD to kick in the modest equivalent of a one to three percent salary increase for new hires to reduce class sizes, and for both sides to work together to lobby Sacramento for more state funding.

Fact-finding panel chairman David A. Weinberg mostly punted on 19 of 21 unresolved equity demands that form the heart of what UTLA has framed as a fight to save L.A.’s “civic institution of public education.” The union won some minor points, like the allowing of teacher input on charter co-locations, and on scrapping a district privilege to unilaterally lift class size caps during fiscal crunches. But by accepting at face value LAUSD’s latest claims of imminent bankruptcy, Weinberg left unanswered a critical question: How could LAUSD annually project catastrophic, three-year deficits and still have its unrestricted cash reserves balloon from $500 million to nearly $2 billion during the same five-year period?

“We have watched underfunding and actions of privatizers undermine our students and our schools for too long. No more,” Caputo-Pearl warned on Wednesday.

The controversy over LAUSD’s “structural deficit” is already defining next March’s special school board election. Ten candidates have thrown in their hats for the seat left vacant by the July resignation of disgraced ex-Board District 5 member Ref Rodriguez. At stake is the single-vote edge enjoyed by Rodriguez’s former pro-charter voting block, currently led by board president Monica Garcia. But the race heated up considerably last week when former two-time BD 5 representative Jackie Goldberg won the UTLA board’s overwhelming endorsement. The contest hinges on which of the other candidates will attract the lucrative support of charter school backers, who in 2017 spent a record-shattering $6.6 million to oust former board president Steve Zimmer in favor of staunch Beutner ally Nick Melvoin.

Also heating up is speculation on how Governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s State Board of Education picks will alter the ideology of a board that has been seen as bending over backwards to favor charter schools. This week, the nonprofit education news site EdSource pointed out that, although it will take years to fully reshape the Jerry Brown-appointed, 11-member board, Newsom’s first opportunity will come on his January 7 inauguration day. That’s when current president Michael Kirst, who was instrumental in California’s adoption of dubious Common Core State Standards, retires. Departing a week later will be Trish Boyd Williams, whose pro-charter charter enthusiasm and career ties to corporate-reform cash have been the bane of local school boards. Also leaving in 2019 will be Bruce Holaday. The term of Karen Valdes, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2017, ends in January.


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