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L.A. schools site packed for vote on allowing outside groups to run some schools


The scene today outside the downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District is a bit chaotic, with hundreds of competing activists and traffic jams. At issue is today's vote on a plan that would allow outside groups to take control of 50 new campuses scheduled to open over the next four years. The proposal has been expanded to include more than 200 existing schools that have persistently failed to meet state and federal improvement targets. These schools could be shut down and converted to charter schools or turned over to outside groups.

The strategy sessions for today’s theater began before dawn. By 5 a.m., about 50 supporters of the proposal, wearing light-blue T-shirts emblazoned with “My Child, My Choice,” began lining up to be the first into the auditorium, where the school board is scheduled to deliberate over the measure at 2 p.m.

Right behind this contingent came a larger one, distinctive for its red T-shirts. The group is spearheaded by  United Teachers Los Angeles, the district's teachers union, which is leading opposition to the proposal,  authored by school board member Yolie Flores Aguilar.

An amendment supported by the union could give veto power over any school reform to parents, teachers and other bargaining units. This amendment was brought forward by newly elected Westside board member Steve Zimmer, who said his intention was for reforms to be inclusive and ultimately more effective.

Zimmer apparently has three votes as the debate is set to begin, but a fourth and deciding vote from the seven-member board seems unlikely.

As of now, it appears Flores Aguilar is more likely to claim a four-vote majority. She has two co-sponsors: Richard Vladovic and Monica Garcia, the board member most closely allied with Mayor Villaraigosa. The mayor supports the Flores Aguilar resolution. Villaraigosa was scheduled to speak at a noon rally for supporters outside the school district headquarters.

Flores Aguilar has two likely options for winning a four-member majority. West San Fernando Valley representative Tamar Galatzan is a probable "yes" vote for Flores Aguilar despite being pulled in different directions politically. Villaraigosa’s fund-raising helped pay for Galatzan’s election two years ago, but she and the mayor have been infrequent allies since then. To complicate matters, Galatzan’s also running for L.A. City Council, without the mayor’s endorsement.

Another possible "yes" vote for Flores Aguilar could come from Nury Martinez, newly elected from the eastern San Fernando Valley. She’s starting on Zimmer’s side — having seconded his amended version -- but could jump to Flores Aguilar provided that the union-endorsed Zimmer amendment fails.

The teachers union provided limited but pivotal support to get Martinez elected. Still, Martinez is thought to be closer to the unions representing non-teaching employees. And they’ve been offered some protection in the latest version of the Flores Aguilar resolution.

That amendment, hashed out over the last week, would designate L.A. Unified as the “default provider” for school support services including cafeteria, custodial, maintenance and security. This provision would preserve some union jobs at schools that transferred to charter operators, which are mostly non-union. The teachers union is notably excluded from this arrangement, in part because teachers have a tenure system and a complex contract that charter operators find objectionable.

But even for the non-teaching unions, the protections are limited. The charters or other outside operators would specify the number and types of jobs, and they could opt out of union-district contracts after an as-yet-unspecified period if district performance is inadequate.

-- Howard Blume

Caption: Light blue T-shirts are worn by supporters of a resolution to convert under-performing L.A. schools into charter schools or give them to outside groups to run. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

More photos . .  .

Comments () | Archives (38)

Citizens did NOT vote for bond issues to support the building of new schools to have the schools handed over to charters, whose supervision is questionable. A further breach of public trust exists in the added proposal that 200 low-performing schools be turned over to charter supervision, because the schools are not performing up to state and federal benchmarks. In effect, the school board would be voting to decrease the supervision of students who are most at risk, essentially abandoning them. Finally, the charter proposal is flawed in that it does not lay out clear methods for determining how schools will be awarded to different charter groups, which is fiscally irresponsible. If this proposal passes, then parents throughout the district need to recall those school board members who voted in its favor.

60%+ hispanic drop out rate at lausd schools
should have the stinking teachers union running
for cover to hide under some cow plop if they had any shame.

Instead they are out in mass protesting to keep
the status quo. Shame on the teachers union!

Re-call the school board, start from scratch.....

We have suffered the incompetence of LAUSD for far too long.
Meanwhile, costs keep going up and performance, measured
in the intelligence of our graduates, keeps going down.

Now we hear property taxes are going up to support this

What does this mean, people? Somewhere in this city, several
senior taxpayers on a fixed incomes are going to lose their
homes because they can't pay their property taxes. Mayor
Villaraigosa is taking homes from defenseless people to
support his cronies. Read the fine print on the school
bonds; they can and will raise property taxes. The current
system is strangling the productive to reward the

It is time for some fresh ideas and new blood. The current
system is demonstrably moribund.

When is the Teacher's Union going to clean house? They want, want, want, YET they have the teachers that in useless!! Parents like myself are tired, the teachers want the parent's support but nothing else. IT IS TIME FOR PARENTS TO UNITE and take control over the LAUSD. PARENTS SHOULD NO LONGER SUPPORT THE ENEMY - Teacher's Union and LAUSD BOARD, Enough!!

As the parent of two children who attended LAUSD schools and subsequently went to campuses in the UC system, I am a strong advocate for the role of PUBLIC education. While charter schools may not be run for profit in California, the article states that they are not subject to district union contracts.

Villaraigosa ought to be ashamed of himself for stating that he supports unions. Tell it like it is Tony and don't try to talk out of both sides of your mouth because we union members aren't buying your drivel. You can pander to Los Angeles parents all you want since you obviously realized your support across the state were you to run for governor was lacking.

If you want to try to exert your control over schools by appealing to disenfranchised parents, it is your right. But, please, don't offend the sensibilities of union members who pay our dues both in terms of our efforts in the classrooms and monetarily from our paychecks.

I cant believe the union is continuing to alienate the parents of the district who are demanding change. If the boardmembers were not supported by union $$$$ then this would not even be a close vote. LAUSD is top heavy and change needs to occur at these schools. Starting with ineffective teachers. Keep the good ones, but get rid of the ones that have mentally checked out. Cant do that with UTLA behind them. Charters are held accountable, and can bring the type of competition that is needed in education.

It doesn't matter if public education in Los Angeles is run by the LAUSD or a charter school organization. I've taught under both systems, and at the end of the day, neither one does much besides warehouse juvenile delinquents.

LAUSD is a joke, my poor immigrant parents killed themselves to make sure I went to private school along with my two other siblings. They paid into a system and got nothing in return.

After graduating college I volunteered for LAUSD only to learn that the underbelly of the beast is far worst. Some LAUSD employees are just as illiterate as their students. It was evident that they were placed through nepotism.

We need a radical change to reduce the Black/Latino educational gap yet the status quo led by the UTLA means more of the same for the Black/Latino community: mediocrity.
The soviet style UTLA should be leading the charge to head off this prop 13 type movement by implementing reforms to remove ineffective inept incompetent teachers that plague barrio and urban schools. Instead UTLA is an agent for the status quo meaning low academic achievement for our beleaguered urban schools. The charter schools is a nascent movement with average test results but with more time and resources the charter school movement can outperform our bankrupt union managed school that after billions of dollars and countless programs have NOT managed to close the Black/Latino gap or reduce the persistently high drop-out rates. Give the charters a chance.

can you print a list of the 50/200 schools, please? or at least a link to them? thanks.

I think it's time to look out of state and abroad at successful school systems as models for LAUSD. The state of disrepair the district is in is incredible, not to mention laughable. Everyone's--teachers, administrators, school board members--hands are tied, so hardly anything is accomplished. It definitely is time to start from scratch.

My solution to curbing the high school dropout rate is to reinstate vocational education as an alternative for students who decide not to go on to college right after high school. This means doing away with the stigma surrounding trade jobs--I mean a job is a job, right?

I actually drew out a plan for how vocational ed. could be effective in this day and age (i.e. preventing minority students from being automatically tracked into voc-ed as it happened in the '70s), which would entail gudiance counselors (what do they do again?) to have a bigger role in students' lives. If anyone down at LAUSD HQs wants to take a gander at it.

Bla-Bla-Bla. LA common is nothing more than a Third World City anymore. How high of a priorty do those country's put on education.

...it is not the school boards fault for the hispanics drop out rate as eluded to by the commentor socorro, it is the lack of the hispanic communitiy not giving a hoot about it, if you value law and education it will rub off on your children, learn English then maybe your kids will be inspired...

I taught in the Peace Corps in Africa where we had one book for 20 students, very little furniture in open air classrooms. There was no electricity and the students worked their family plots while attending school. Then I taught in New York City and LAUSD. The students I taught in Africa far outperformed the ones here in our public school system. Why? Because they understood that education begins and ends at home. Education is earned, not bought. Parents have to be involved, not just demand results. The amount of money we spend on public education is an absolute disgrace and nothing will change until parents take actual responsibility for raising and educating their children.

Raul Marquez--The public voted in those bonds last November. Even though the bonds themselves have been canceled, the majority voted to add to their current property tax payments via the ballot box. The district imposing that tax leads to the same end result. What the people voted for.

BTW--I did not vote in favor of the bonds, but we live in a democracy. I pay too.

The Board doesn't care about the black and brown children who are in the 50% not suceeding in LAUSD. What the board members supporting this resolution care about is landing a cushy, high paying position with one of the charter school operators after they help them with this multi-million dollar giveaway of public property. Why is it legal after voters have passed a bond issue to build public schools to give taxpayer funded public property to private entities? Are we going to give the prisons away to private operators? What about giving the freeways away so a private operator can charge tolls and make a profit? Watch for what will come next when this giveaway passes. What's next?

Well, if your child's first language is English, your child will not be a priority in these new schools.

Devil's Advocate apparently you missed grammar class and my parents killed themselves to put food on the table while I went to public school, college and now have a PhD- a product of public school system. LAUSD is in fact a beast in need of dire reform, but you are truly naive if you think charter schools care about the students any more than LAUSD- at least LAUSD is accountable to someone- theirs is a business and the community will have no say, funding allocation is questionable and not guaranteed. Birmingham High School, which recently switched to the charter system, borrowed money from LAUSD because a loan did not come through, so there you go....

As a 22+ year school board member at a much-smaller district, yeah, incompetent teachers are a problem. But the problem starts at the top with the school board for hiring and tolerating incompetent administrators who won't train their site administrators (i.e., principals) in how to achieve change.

I've found over the years that 99% of the teachers want to be good teachers. Training does not stop after they're credentialed; it continues for life! If you just give them a key and teachers' edition of the textbook, most teachers aren't going to do well.

You're only partially right in assigning blame on the unions; they're not big on change, though it can be done. The union's job is to protect their members and negotiate the best deals they can, and it looks like they've been doing a good job of it over the years.

It's the job of the school board and administration to devise and implement a plan for improvement, not the union. Blame your school board and administrators for not coming up with a game plan and executing it! There needs to be consensus and leadership from the top. That's their job and that's why they're getting paid the big bucks. It's their job to bring parents, teachers, unions, administrators and the community together. Change has to start at the top!

If they're not doing their job, vote the bums out! Otherwise, it sounds to me like y'all are getting the quality of education you keep buying with your votes.

Once the charter schools take over most of the LAUSD schools and they still fail, then what? Many of the students at charters/magnet schools are there because they are the go getters, and have strong parent support. Once they take on the whole problem of all the schools with all it's implications then we can judge how well they do. Many parents don't attend one open house or back to school night in their kids school. Believe me, I was there for 31 years.

The union members don't care about anything but themselves and how potential policies could affect their own interests. They certainly don't care about the children of this state. The school district has obviously failed the children and the system is broken. Why does anybody care what the unions think? The politicians that cater to these groups are cowards and should be ashamed of themselves. How do they even look into their mirrors each morning knowing that they're selling out the children in hope of keeping their jobs? Pathetic!

David, stop putting down smart, hardworking teachers. We have teachers at our school who are former editors for publishing houses, former engineers and scientists.

This is one of the hardest jobs in the world and to blame it all on teachers is wrong. My high school students come to me unable to create an email account, attach a file or write a letter. I teach them all that in my history classes within lessons we complete. The reason for their lack of societal knowledge is all the emphasis on testing which has crowded out practical education that can be melded with academics. Couple that with parents who don't have those skills and you can see the challenges we face.

We need to offer more than A-G

Long ago people very much wanted the district to break up into several smaller, more localized and more manageable parts.

Maybe that day has finally come. I don't agree with letting the district go to charter schools. But I do agree with finally breaking up this terrible marriage of a district that is hurting children. It's the best thing for the children. Wouldn't it be great if the mayor, the school board, and the UTLA could finally admit that and truly, seriously, lay down their lives, agendas, plans, schemes, pay raises, political power, and all their political posturing for the children? Even give up the right to be right, for the children.

Are there any adults in this situation who are willing to break up the district for the sake of the kids?

when the teachers union allows child molesters and other criminals to be fired from their teaching jobs, they will get my support.

As long as they support these monsters, they deserve nothing but scorn and anything that will make their union weaker is a win for the city.

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