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Teachers union organizes celebrated charter school

February 5, 2009 |  5:17 pm
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plays with Ryan Lopez, 4, at Accelerated School Keck Early Learning Center in South Los Angeles.

Nearly 80% of teachers and other eligible staff at one of the city’s most lauded charter schools have chosen to join the city’s major teachers union, officials announced Thursday afternoon.

The organizing drive at the Accelerated School, south of downtown, marks the first time that United Teachers Los Angeles has tried to unionize a start-up charter school. Accelerated was co-founded by Johnathan Williams, who sits on the state Board of Education. In 2007, Williams ran unsuccessfully for the L.A. Board of Education against an incumbent who relied primarily on the teachers union for campaign support.

The 15-year-old school’s numerous commendations include being named Time magazine’s elementary school of the year in 2001. The school serves more than 1,300 students in a preschool through 12th-grade program that is supplemented by private philanthropy. The largest campus, which offers kindergarten through eighth grade, has test scores well below the state average. But when compared with schools that serve a similar population of low-income minority students, the school rates in the top 10%.

The union drive began in December when teachers from Accelerated contacted UTLA over such issues as teacher turnover, inconsistent treatment of employees and a perceived deterioration of teacher involvement in key decisions at the school, said UTLA President A.J. Duffy and area representative Dori Miles.

In a statement, Accelerated board President Eric C. Johnson didn’t respond directly to the union campaign, but said state and federal guidelines to improve student performance have “challenged all of us, including our teachers, in new and uncomfortable ways.” He added: “We understand the concerns our teachers have over job security and compensation, particularly during these difficult economic times.”

— Howard Blume

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plays with Ryan Lopez, 4, at Accelerated School Keck Early Learning Center in South Los Angeles. Credit: Gary Friedman  / Los Angeles Times

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