Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) submitted its Race to the Top-District proposal without the signature of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). The move will make them ineligible for $40 million in funding.
The controversy between LAUSD, headed by Superintendent John Deasy, and UTLA, headed by President Warren Fletcher, surrounds exactly how those funds would be used within the school district. LAUSD wants to apply the funds for various programs and technology such as “Linked Learning pathways, parent engagement programs, individualized support for students, professional development, and digital tablets” that will prepare students for college or for work after high school; however, UTLA argues that “it would not be fiscally responsible” nor would it “put teachers in classrooms.”
This is not the first time in California–a state that has been wracked by budgetary shortfalls in recent years–when school districts have been derailed in their attempts to gain federal education funds by a lack of accord with teachers unions. Glendale, Sacramento, and Bay Area school districts have faced similar problems.
Superintendent Deasy has attempted to circumvent the technicalities of the Race to the Top rule requiring a signature from the teachers union president. Writing to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a supplement to the grant application, Deasy argued, “Though department rules mandate union support for the application, I appeal to you to consider the LAUSD grant. There is a common saying that extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. With LAUSD continuing to face historic budget challenges while demonstrating historic gains, we believe we are in the midst of such times.”
Thus far, the Education Department has held the official line.
The Los Angeles Education Partnership, a non-governmental education organization in Los Angeles that seeks to work with anyone concerned about Los Angeles schools, set up an “Education Salon” intended to make public any concerns about the role of teachers unions in facilitating student success. After a “lively discussion, panelists agreed that a lack of trust characterizes the district-union relationship, often to the detriment of Los Angeles students.”
Ellen Pais, LAEP’s president and CEO, commented, “At points in Los Angeles’ history, people have been able to come together for the benefit of students,” she said. “How do we make now one of those moments? Who are the leaders in Los Angeles who are going to make this happen?”
The Education Salon panelists and audience members raised topics that included the:
- need for inclusive conversations about education reform
- tendency for all parties to focus on areas of disagreement rather than larger areas of agreement
- exclusion of parents from the larger discussions about education and reform
- barriers to reform found in the union’s House of Representatives
- importance of education to solving the problem of poverty
- length of the teachers’ union contract
“This Education Salon is structured to bring together a variety of viewpoints in a civil discourse,” said Jane Patterson, LAEP senior director, in her introduction. “The students of L.A. deserve nothing less than that from the adults who are the decision-makers for their schools.”
LAEP Board Chair Rod Hamilton moderated the discussion among Warren Fletcher, president of the UTLA teachers union; Jordan Henry, LAUSD teacher and co-founder of progressive teachers group NewTLA; Alicia Lara, vice president of community investment at United Way Los Angeles; and David Abel, president of ABL Inc., a public policy consulting firm, and LAEP co-founder and board member.
The notable omission was, of course, Superintendent John Deasy.
For more information, visit these links: http://www.dailynews.com/ci_21905869/lausd-seeks-40-million-race-top-grant-without.html and http://www.laep.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=36&Itemid=225