"I Don't Get No Respect" -- Rodney Dangerfield, UTLA

Whenever you asked Day Higuchi, John Perez, or present UTLA President A.J. Duffy about almost any issue, they would either preface their response by saying, "Well the District policy is such and such" or "Let's see what the District says." But in both cases, a supposedly independent union that takes almost $60 a month from all its members and others it represents with LAUSD, unconsciously sees itself as part of a District that has come to have a life and loyalty that it does not deserve. I once asked Day Higuchi what was done with all the things that were discussed and voted on by the UTLA House of Representatives. He said, "They go into a big book that we keep -- pause -- we really should do something with that book." 

As ex-teachers, neither LAUSD administrators nor UTLA leadership are ever going back into the classroom and because of their inherent lack of business and legal education, both bureaucracies make very expensive mistakes that students and teachers have no input into, but will suffer the scapegoated consequences we see presently. There's the continually low student achievement, the Fremont High forced teacher resignations, 12% pay cuts, 4 unpaid furlough days, and degraded health benefits -- for those who still have them. 

At least LAUSD has a budget bigger than that of the City of Los Angeles to pay for a fiasco like the Belmont scandal, where the same law firm represented the District and the developer responsible for building the most expensive high school in history on a toxic waste dump. Duffy and his predecessors, coming from the teacher culture of following LAUSD directive without developing a well thought policy of their own, are constantly running from one LAUSD set brush fire to another. Only UTLA doesn't have either the legal or business education running the union that LAUSD can afford to pay for. 

The result has been no respect from LAUSD, because the District has never felt any real push back from UTLA that they have to deal with. For example, long time negotiators like Sam Krasner refused to ask for a cost of living increase built into the boiler plate of the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, even though STRS has given this to retired teachers for years in recognition of an inflationary reality. So, between 1976 and 2007, LAUSD teachers lost 11% in real wages and buying power when their raises from LAUSD didn't have cost of living factored in. In every European union -- German teachers are the best example -- the professional legal and business staff that is under the auspices of union leadership is indistinguishable from the highly qualified professionals that they deal with on the other side. 

Teacher apathy and cynicism has recently expressed itself in a rejection of a proposed rise in monthly teacher dues to the union, but Duffy and Co. seem to not have gotten this message. The early December demonstration in front of Beaudry by somewhere between 300 and 600 teachers out of 33,000 probably empowered Superintendent Ramon Cortines in continuing his failed 50 year career that has sustain failed public education policy in San Francisco, Pasadena, New York, and twice in Los Angeles. If Ramon Cortines was a teacher under the present LAUSD regime, he would undoubtedly be the subject of misguided L.A. Times articles by Jason Song that seek no tenure and easier removal of poor performing teachers. If teachers and staff do not stand up and talk about the incompetence in LAUSD administration that they see and suffer from on a daily basis, then maybe they shouldn't get any respect.

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01 2010


What I noticed about the UTLA House of Representative when I was a member is that it was packed with retired teachers, who like the union president and staff, will never go back into a classroom. This tends to dilute the resolve of active teacher members to hold LAUSD responsible for nonsensical actions and policies.

For main of these retired teachers, the House of Reps functioned as a social gathering with a chicken or Chinese dinner added for good measure.

One could not help but notice that many members of UTLA's House of Reps would tend to fade away and out the door after dinner had been served- sometimes, we had trouble keeping a quorum.

In order to deal with LAUSD, UTLA must first deal with the crippling apathy in its rank-and-file that only empowers Cortines.

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