School Choice & Charters Opinion

Good Deal: L.A. Teachers Settle, Avoid Strike

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — April 20, 2015 2 min read
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In the end, it was better to settle than fight.

On Friday, United Teachers Los Angeles and the L.A. Unified School District reached a tentative labor agreement that includes a 10% raise over two years.

There were the usual “this is a good deal for both sides” comments from the school board and union leadership. And relative to the alternative, it certainly was.

A teacher strike would have been disastrous. I believe it would have led to political moves to curb teacher unionism, break up the district...or both.

The underlying question is whether the agreement creates a new working relationship between the district and union: not “making nice” or “being cooperative” but rather thrashing out some difficult ongoing problems. Huge long term financial and educational issues remain, including the cost of a health benefits deal the school board reached last week.

There’s at least one signal that the new contract contains elements of an ongoing working relationship. The existing, much hated, teacher evaluation system will be reworked by a joint labor-management committee.

Clearly both sides are willing to hit the “reset” button on teacher evaluation. Regardless of the merits of the existing agreement, it was toxic even before it was swallowed.

Bucks for Votes

$25,000 a vote! I grew up in Chicago, so the idea of compensating voters doesn’t seem odd to me, but here’s a new twist. The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is planning lottery to boost the historically low turnout in the LAUSD District 5 school board runoff election in May.

Those who cast votes will be entered in the lottery; one winner gets $25.000.

The District 5 race is the most pointed conflict between charter school advocates and opponents within United Teachers Los Angeles and the school board. Bennett Kayser, the incumbent, favors limiting the growth of charters. Ref Rodriguez, his challenger, who finished first in the primary election, co-founded a large charter organization.

Conventional wisdom holds that increased voter turnout would favor Rodriguez in the heavily Latino district.

Out of the Frying Pan

Matt Hill, a stalwart lieutenant of former Los Angeles superintendent John Deasy, has been named superintendent of the 16,000-student Burbank Unified School District. Hill, who held the title Chief Strategy Officer at LAUSD, was closely associated with two of the programs that led to Deasy’s ouster: the iPads-for-all adoption and the flawed MISIS student record system.

Hill’s appointment was strongly opposed by the Burbank Teacher’s Association, and the board meeting where his appointment was approved was so unruly that one board member resigned before the vote was taken. Like Deasy, Hill has been closely tied to the Broad Foundation.

But it would be wrong to assume that Hill mirrors either Broad or Deasy.

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