In Los Angeles Unified School District, meaningful and independently verifiable change has been shunned by a highly ritualized kabuki District administrators practice, where their primary concern is to defend their privileges as refugees from the intolerable classroom reality from which they escaped in the past.
Rather then honestly addressing the problems that plague public education in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the big cities of this country, LAUSD speaks a simplistic Orwellian edspeak that bears no relationship to the reality that dedicated teachers are still trying to cope with on a daily basis.
"There is an old saying that if you control the topic, you win the debate. Teachers must have a prominent voice in discussions about what we truly need to strengthen teaching and learning."
While LAUSD makes unilateral cuts to teachers salaries of 12% and 4 unpaid furlough days, the New Haven Federation of Teachers announced the results of the decisive October 13 vote for a new four-year pact:
"The deal, which takes effect in July 2010, includes average salary increases amounting to 12 percent over four years, increased medical contributions by the employer, and reform initiatives aimed at closing the gap in student achievement."
All this while the monologue engaged in by LAUSD seeks to cut teachers salaries, furlough teacher, degrade medical benefits, while never quite getting around to the dysfunction that make public school environment toxic for all concerned.
"We[teachers] have no problem being held accountable, but it has to be a top-to-bottom accountability."
Rather than creating this two-way accountability that must be at the bottom of any true and collaborative public school reform, there is a movement afoot to blame the teachers for a reality that they have not had the power to effect in the past. If this scapegoating of teachers is allowed to succeed, not only will the protection and security that is fundamental to attracting good unionized teachers be destroyed, but public schools will not succeed in implementing the educational excellence that must be achieved if we want to once again reach our social, political, and economic potential in these dangerous times. In the New Haven:
"The contract sets out a new teacher evaluation system, one that will include student progress as a component...labor-management committees to determine what constitutes 'student progress' and how much weight i should be given in teacher evaluations."
Under present LAUSD party line, god help the teacher that dares to challenge the status quo. They will be assaulted by administration with charges and assessments of their teaching that have more to do with compliance with failed LAUSD culture than they do with anything that has even the remotest chance of improving education. Do you want a transfer? Better not give these students who do no work a failing grade. Instead of this highly vindictive revenge driven system that finds culpability in any teacher who dares to say that the LAUSD emperor has no clothes, the New Haven agreement seems to seek more truly negotiated consensus from all parties:
"The agreement also establishes high quality peer assistance and review, staffed by full-time union-selected educators. It reaffirms tenure and the principle of fair dismissal for educators."
As for charter schools, LAUSD is overlaying their long failed policies on any charter in which they have LEA oversight. These charters will not even be allowed to come into existence until they agree to conditions that compromise the fresh ability that charters would have if they were allowed to structure themselves in terms of their students needs and not LAUSD's desire to prolong its power at the expense of new innovative approaches that have already worked elsewhere:
"It authorizes conversion of up to three under-performing schools into union-represented charter schools."
Where UTLA and its rank and file are an integral part in the organization and running of the charter school while maintaining the security of their collectively bargained rights, several positive results will be immediately achieved: Unions will not be able to remain on the sidelines powerlessly complaining while their work conditions continue to degrade; actually empowered union rank-and-file will support both the District and UTLA, because they will finally feel that they have a stake; and most importantly, a united front will be built to address the daunting task of dealing with the permissive waste that has been allowed to ravage this country's greatest asset- its youth.
"Sometimes you have to fight to collaborate."
50% of teachers will retire within 10 years.
What do we really need to turn this country around?