L.A. Union Sues Over School-Management Policy

December 22, 2009 2 min read

A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, had been threatening for months to take legal action against Los Angeles Unified officials over the district’s new school choice policy. That resolution, passed by the Los Angeles school board in August, will allow outside groups such as charter schools to take over the management of 30 new and existing schools starting next school year.

Late yesterday, Duffy made good on his word. The union filed its lawsuit and held a news conference at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, one of the district campuses slated for new management next fall.

The union is arguing that the district’s policy--which would permit charter school operators to take on the management of newly built district schools and hire non-union teachers--violates state law. UTLA contends that at least 50 percent of a school’s tenured teachers must sign a petition supporting a school’s conversion to a charter, even for a brand-new school.

I don’t know if UTLA’s got a strong legal argument here, but, at the very least, the union might succeed in binding up the school choice process for a while. The deadline for groups interested in bidding for the management of district schools is less than three weeks away. Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines plans to make his final recommendations on new managers to the Los Angeles board of education by February.

If this is a UTLA tactic to slow the march of charters across Los Angeles, I’m not sure it’s the right strategy. Charter-management organizations like Green Dot Public Schools (which are unionized, though not by UTLA), the Inner City Education Foundation, and the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools continue to scale up and draw oodles of money from private philanthropy.

Perhaps UTLA will consider a new tack like some of their union brethren in other cities where charters are proliferating: organizing those teachers. In this memo from earlier in the year, UTLA leaders acknowledge that is a necessary step for their survival. It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next few months.

And speaking of the future, this will be my final District Dossier post as I sign off of the school district beat here at Ed Week and move on to cover state policy. I leave you in the able hands of my blogging partner and colleague, Dakarai Aarons, who will continue to bring you the newiest, juiciest tidbits from the nation’s school districts.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.