(For a national view of public education reform see the end of this blog post)
When we think of those who collaborated with Nationalsozialismus or Nazism and the Third Reich during World War II, we usually have quite appropriate visions of Vichy France. But early on, the Nazis had sympathizers in many other countries organizations including in America and some moved on to becoming allies and collaborators. It may be surprising to realize but some of these were even Jews themselves who went so far as to help in the selection of other Jews who would go to the camps. Most noteworthy and vile among the many features of Nazism was racism, assassination and genocide. But the Nazis also opposed liberalism, democracy, capitalism, industrialization and, of greatest interest to us, trade unionism. The most powerful unit within Nazi corps was the Schutzstaffel or the SS which faithfully enforced the policies listed above. They did the dirty work. So the issue to be addressed here is the similar nature of certain organizations and their working committees who are taking over the field of education within our own Los Angeles community.
For any of you who have done any time with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) the comparisons to Nazi Germany are more than apparent. The totalitarianism and suppression of freedom of expression are commonplace and daily ordeals. Teacher intimidation and roundups grow in frequency. The loses of protections under tenure, permanency, and seniority are recent. The end of careers or the threat of it is a constant presence. And what makes these conditions so much worse is the ever reliable collaborative relationship the district holds with its partner, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA).
Those charged with defending our freedoms have surrendered them. The results couldn't be clearer. Furlough days of one number or another. More scrutiny than ever before through the Value Added Measure and the ever present threat of accusation which can immediately throw even the most veteran of teachers into peril as more than ever before they sit in detainment at local districts while under investigation, where the conclusion has preceded the investigation. It should come as no surprise that so many are longtime veterans currently at the highest salary levels and closest to retirement with lifetime benefits. How else can LAUSD administration balance a $408 million deficit without losing their own jobs?
Perhaps you're asking yourself what is the union doing to address the issues and the district Schutzstaffel. The answer to that would be committees. Possibly the one which would seem to most likely address our woes would the Political Action Committee (PAC). What this committee does basically is to lobby and disburse contributions for the most part to the Democratic Party. Yes, the same party which partners with the Republican party to reduce funding to education, give away schools to charters and privateers, make it easier to fire teachers and, well, you probably know the rest. Why does the union do this? Because upper level union officers hope to one day secure better positions within or through the influence of the Democratic party.
The next committee of greatest concern would the Progressive Educators For Action, (PEAC). About all they accomplish is a monthly meeting which skirts any real issues as previously mentioned and suppresses any real ideas or efforts to put an end to these foul practices against public education and the teaching community. Why so? Because taking any real action, or activism, would disrupt the union's collaborative with the district. However, to hear them tell it, their purpose would be to further the cause of education and the teaching profession.
The next to last I'll mention here, although not near the actual end of the committees, is the House Of Representatives (HOR). Again, on paper it would seem that this committee helps determine the course the union will take. In reality, it's just another rubber stamp for whatever the higher ranking officers impose even though some members of this committee refuse to be silenced about their disappointments over union complicity and indolence. But by now you know to whom they're inevitably answerable.
The last to be mentioned is the LASUBS, acronym self explanatory, and the Substitute Teacher Committee (STC). These are both much smaller and less influential entities compared to those mentioned previously, but it took many small hands for the SS to operate so thoroughly and so successfully too. Even if you're a substitute teacher yourself, you probably didn't know that there used to be around 6,000 substitute teachers working for LAUSD.
The subs offered invaluable service to the schools they served in their capacity to keep the school day together and instruction delivered. Those numbers are down considerably due to an infamous document known as the Memorandum of Understanding which greatly reduced working hours for subs and, added to that, the district's propensity for dismissing subs as scapegoats for whatever goes wrong - real, imagined, or just plain fabricated by administration - on campuses with little to no defense provided by the union. Substitute teachers themselves overturned the MOU but by then many had departed for good and there are still questions about how well the MOU has been extinguished. In the course of these events, LASUBS, a sort of forum, has served as the common voice for subs. Indeed, significant useful information has come to light there as well as many good suggestions for union action on behalf of subs.Some of higher profile and more useful as those made by a sub who also serves as a DJ or host for KPFK FM in Latino programming.
However, far too much of the discourse on this forum comes from those shilling for the union while creating distractions with paper tiger pseudo activism to offset any true pressure for genuine activism on the part of the union, that might actually require LAUSD to respond to rank and file teachers, instead of teachers left by UTLA in an eternal position of weak reaction.
These "shills' put together long demand lists which they know the union will generally ignore as it does subs in general but in the hopes of building personal reputations which will lead to becoming some sort of paid official within the union hierarchy. Sometimes these plans call for drastic action such as changing California Education Code in favor of subs which they know the state legislature will summarily ignore. Most of this is piloted through the Substitute Teacher Committee,STC, which is the substitute arm of the union. However, this committee is also being populated by union stooges. So there's not really much true representation in effect. Some of these people likely don't even know that they're doing exactly what the union wants.
Call it the Shutzstaffel or whatever you want. The SS resides at Beaudry protecting its Fuhrer with its Gestapo operating in the background. Sure, you'll find good and honest people working there too. The same can be said for the local districts and all the committees and entities previously named as well as some of the principals overseeing school sites. But even many of these people know what's really going on and yet remain silent. This is not unlike some of the good Germans who lived next to prisoner camps and crematoria who claimed to never know what was going on and, worse yet, those within the system who claimed to only be following orders. If the teaching community is to ever be saved from whatever reich Beaudry declares itself, its up to that same community to do the saving.
This can only be done in one of two ways. Either those in the union who collaborate must be forced out or the union itself must be replaced. Would these things be happening to the membership of the longshoremen's union? I doubt it. They wouldn't tolerate it. But so far we have. Our current leadership has long practiced full cooperation with the district in a manner that is completely antithetical to any real union. In fact, during the last campaign the soon to be outgoing president remarked about how great it would be if he, the former union president, held a high ranking position with the district.
It's now known that he flirts with a richly salaried office through Bill Gates or Eli Broad, the privateers. In the meantime, when recently interviewed, the incoming ever noncommittal president, Warren Fletcher, would only comment about looking past the failures and ambiguities of the AJ Duffy six year reign. Furthermore, when asked about pursuing student boycotts as tactics against the district which would not put teacher's jobs at risk, elected Secretary, David Lyell, would only say that there would be no such boycotts. Nothing to upset the union's hip pocket partnerships with the district. This coming from the same Lyell who until July 1st will remain a substitute teacher, but is a study in the ability to rise in the union system by offering himself as its favorable distraction from true pro-activism with smoke and mirrors . So for one last time, it's not up to a failed union to successfully oppose the district but rather the rank and file. We either get used to saying, "sieg heil" or "die gedanken sind frei." Look them up on Wikipedia.