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Teachers union to vote on aggressive stand against Deasy policies

March 8, 2013 |  2:26 pm

The Los Angeles teachers union has scheduled an April vote for an initiative that would, if passed, call for a more aggressive posture against the leadership of the L.A. Unified School District.

The goal is to get a majority of teachers to push back against policies adopted by Supt. John Deasy and the Board of Education, while also offering an alternative approach to improving academic achievement in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The effort comes in the wake of this month's school board elections, which left unsettled a joust over the path of future school-improvement efforts. Union-backed incumbent Steve Zimmer prevailed, as did incumbent Monica Garcia, a strong Deasy backer. Deasy likely emerged with a sometimes fragile, but workable majority on most issues.  

“The ‘strategy’ of closed-door negotiations around single issues without a broad public campaign to defend and promote public education is failing miserably,” said union activist David Rapkin in a recent online posting to other teachers. “Out-foxing the enemy at the negotiations table is a losing strategy. It ignores the fact that without building real grassroots power around a broad vision for public education, and a vision that includes our power to wage a popular strike, we cannot win in this political and economic climate.”

The union ballot language speaks of “collaborating with parents, students, school communities, and other educational allies and advocates” on a citywide campaign. It also calls for negotiations with district officials on a range of issues — and ending a defensive strategy attempting to block or modify district proposals as they appear one after another.

The goals include reversing budget cuts affecting jobs and classrooms and ending the practice of re-staffing low-performing schools and minimizing the use of standardized tests. Another target is the use of “value-added” formulas in evaluations, which rate instructors based on how much students have learned.

The union “demands should include reduced class sizes, full staffing of our schools, restored funding of Adult and Early Childhood Education, equity and access for all students, safe and clean schools, better pay for all school employees, a stop to excessive unnecessary student ... testing use, an end to reconstitution and school giveaways,” in the language of the resolution.

Backers said they were inspired by the activism behind last year's Chicago teachers strike, although they said a strike might not be necessary here. Some organizers are especially upset over the recent decision to re-staff Crenshaw High School in Leimert Park.

The school district declined to comment on the effort. United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher also had no immediate response.

The initiative petition had 1,130 valid signatures — enough to compel the union leadership to schedule a vote under union rules.

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-- Howard Blume

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