Like LAUSD, UTLA is presently not fighting for better education, it is fighting for jobs and while there is a clear correlation with having an adequate well-trained staff of educators, the waste that continues to be endemic to LAUSD doesn't mean that not losing teachers and having adequate staff is equal to an accountable education system that truly educates ALL students to their potential.
Just look at where UTLA presently spends it money:
1. It supports supplemental property assessment Measure E, which is not only necessitate by California' budget deficit, but also by the vast sums of money that continue to be wasted at LAUSD in the maintenance of 8 superfluous mini-districts, a television station, unjustified out-of-classrooms positions, and a whole host of expenditures that should have gone on the chopping block long before asking taxpayers to foot yet another bill for an education system that has never vindicated the investment. While we can argue about the necessitate for charter schools, one cannot argue with the huge windfall in finances that charters get by eliminating this bloated LAUSD bureaucracy. The fact that many of these charters then create their own LAUSDesque dysfunctional top heavy bureaucracies does not negate that the money is there if reasonable oversight is part of the governance process.
2. UTLA owns its building at Berendo and Wilshire and collects close to $60 a month from over 38,000 members and service receivers, but always pleads poverty, because it is constantly fighting the same grievances over and over again against LAUSD for actions that clearly show a pattern on the part of the District that does not respect the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the California State Education Code, or even LAUSD's own internal policies. Rather than definitively litigate to establish a more balanced and ultimately less expensive process in resolving disputes with LAUSD, UTLA continues these repetitious processes with LAUSD that only serve to justify the jobs of highly compensated bureaucrats at LAUSD and UTLA who are never going back to the classroom and whose work up until now has not changed the failed academic culture of LAUSD nor is it likely to.
3. UTLA spends huge sums of money to influence LAUSD Board elections and other political campaigns at the state and national level, but has little to show for it because UTLA self-interests are not equatable with what's good for public education, unless there existed a clearly teacher defined platform of where we wanted to take public education and what teachers stand for independent of LAUSD's ideas. UTLA union policy at present has no more of a clue as to what needs to be done than LAUSD.
4. UTLA's support of LAUSD Board candidates that supposedly support teachers is not the same as supporting candidates that will confront the entrenched and self-serving leadership of both LAUSD and UTLA, rather than become a part of it. Public education reform is not possible as long as LAUSD and UTLA run under a top/down model whether there is no democratic process that allows rank-and-file input into what policies and programs should run the District. Failure to do this has created the fertile ground where the present orchestrated media attack against teachers seeking to blame us for the failure of education has found a responsive ear in the public that is sick of obscene amounts of money being spent with nothing to show for it.
There is not a nickel's worth of difference between the vacuous edspeak rhetoric of LAUSD or UTLA which talks about "social justice, crisis, actions, fighting back, and organizing" without ever saying how this is going to take place. Given the feudal nature of how both LAUSD and UTLA are run, I might suggest an approach that the Russian people choose when they brought about their revolution in 1917. While I do not agree with the politics of that revolution I do agree with the limited and specific ideas that were used to bring it about: Peace, Land, and Bread.
So what ideas express real education reform? While a slogan by definition is not specific, it can be overlain on any specific education policy consideration in asking whether what is being done now stands a chance of fulfilling the slogan. So, as a first suggestion for some bedrock principles of public education designed to finally bring about measurable change how's about:
1. Clearly defined consequences for all education stakeholders -- whether you're a student, teacher, administrator, or parents you have both rights and obligations. The failure for any of these constituencies to live up to clearly defined obligations needs to be addressed by a summary process designed to end non-compliance in a timely manner, which is what is presently sabotaging LAUSD.;
2. Ending social promotion -- By putting programs in place that address the subjective needs of our students and not some fantasy that continues to be promulgated by LAUSD and by hiring the expertise necessary to implement such pragmatic education, we will no longer have to choose between social promotion and grade retention, neither of which deal with the underlying deficits are students continue to be unnecessarily afflicted with. This will require the renegotiation of how seniority is used and how compensation dealt with.
3. Education must be driven by data with a clear willingness to change policy when there is little or no evidence to show that a program is working or has any chance of working.
While these first principles do not specifically address things as diverse as the proposed cutting down of shade trees by a co-sited charter school or the epidemic levels of diabetes in Latino children that approaches twice the state average, such issues and others will be resolved if the above 3 policies are implemented as part of a reform process that sees such things as only symptoms of the underlying disease which is the failure to educate.