Tuesday, January 29, 2019

LA Teacher Strike Cools Embrace of Charters - NYT Plus Norm in The WAVE

I had just sent in my story for this week's WAVE when I picked up the NYT and saw this:
 Carrying protest signs, thousands of teachers and their allies converged last month on the shimmering contemporary art museum in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Clad in red, they denounced “billionaire privatizers” and the museum’s patron, Eli Broad. The march was a preview of the attacks the union would unleash during the teachers’ strike, which ended last week.
As one of the biggest backers of charter schools, Mr. Broad helped make them a fashionable and potent cause in Los Angeles, drawing support from business leaders like Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix; Hollywood executives; and lawmakers to create a wide network of more than 220 schools.
Mr. Broad was so bullish about the future of charter schools just a few years ago that he even floated a plan to move roughly half of Los Angeles schoolchildren — more than 250,000 students — into such schools. In 2017, he funneled millions of dollars to successfully elect candidates for the Board of Education who would back charters, an alternative to traditional public schools that are publicly funded but privately run.
His prominence has also turned him into a villain in the eyes of the teachers’ union. Now Mr. Broad and supporters like him are back on their heels in Los Angeles and across the country. NYT
Front page of the Times doesn't tell the full story - like all the charter scandals. But it does show how an aggressive union leadership can help turn the tide. Have you seen any signs of that here in the UFT?

Here is my story for the Feb. 1 edition of The WAVE:

School Scope:  Teachers Go Wild with Strikes in Virginia, Denver, Los Angeles,  and a Wildcat in Oakland
By Norm Scott
January 28, 2019

Teacher strike fever has struck the nation. Last year we saw the anti-union Trump red state strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Teachers revolted, not only against the Republican state legislatures and governors, but against their own union leaderships that often urge caution. This week thousands of teachers in Virginia left their classrooms to march in a rally at the capitol. Virginia Educators United, a grassroots campaign formed by educators, parents and members of the community, organized the rally on Monday. The movement has spread to blue states where stronger union leaderships have taken leadership. Denver teachers are going on strike. Teachers are getting the message that going it alone as a union without outside support is a losing proposition. Pay has been a key factor, one reason we won’t see similar actions here in the UFT.

United Teachers, Los Angeles (UTLA) strike Ends -  Charter Schools Curbs on the Agenda
In Los Angeles, the pay issue seemed to take second place – both sides agreed on a roughly 6% raise. Contrary to what has happened here in NYC where the opposition to Unity Caucus’ domination of the UFT has been in disarray, in 2014, a group of teachers in LA came together under the banner of “Union Power” an amalgam of various groups and independents and won the election under the leadership of Alex Caputo-Pearl. I first met Alex about 10 years ago when he was a high school teacher and also an elected member of the UTLA Executive Board and it was clear he had a strong vision that went far beyond narrow trade unionism. (See NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/us/charter-schools-los-angeles.html).

Caputo-Pearl and his team began preparing the membership for a strike from the day he took office, with 99% of the teachers supporting a strike. They built alliances with parent and community groups by not only emphasizing raises but also calling for drastic class size reductions and more support personnel like librarians, school nurses and guidance counselors. And through these tactics, they seem to have won a great victory.

The elected school board in LA has been under the control of the pro-charter billionaire boys club led by Eli Broad and they have installed hedge fund managers instead of educators to run the schools, with a pro-charter bent. Broad tried to push through an initiative to turn half the schools into charters. Broad wasn’t successful in trying to undermine public education, but hasn’t given up. Charters get support as a way break teacher unions, as has been done in New Orleans which no longer has any public schools. The UTLA’s call for a moratorium on charters got some results, at the very least putting a discussion in the public sphere.

[Speaking of charter moratoriums, here in NYC some district community education councils are taking stands against charter expansion in their district. Tonight I’m going to the District 15 CEC meeting (Park Slope and Sunset Park) where such a resolution is on the table.]

The media, other than the right wing Fox types, has been mostly friendly to teachers over their recent struggles. What is interesting is that LA is a the first big city strike since Chicago in 2012 started the strike fever and California is a blue state totally controlled by Democrats, many of whom have also been charter friendly. My litmus test for any candidate running for president is whether they showed up on the UTLA picket lines or offered support, threatening contributions from pro-charter hedge hogs. 

Let’s see how many candidates in the upcoming Public Advocate campaign take a pro-union, anti-charter stand. The WAVE is taking this election seriously and doing some great work. I will be perusing the interviews with the candidates for where they stand on the big education issues of the day.

Norm is one of the few people in NYC not running for public advocate but check his blog, ednotesonline.com, in case he changes his mind.

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