Tag Archives: LAUSD

While UTLA Strikes—UTLA Leaders, LAUSD Settle

23 Jan
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Teachers, students and community allies, Tuesday, Jan. 22, picketing outside of Phineas Banning High School in the Wilmington community of the City of Los Angeles; photo by Barry Saks

A couple hours before the news conference announcing a tentative agreement was reached between the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District, the teacher strike continued into its sixth and last day, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with students and community members picketing with the teachers, and among the schools being picketed was Phineas Banning High School in the working-class community of Wilmington, a few miles north of the Port of Los Angeles.

Soon after daylight, the picketing began and after a short while at least a hundred people were picketing in front of the school in a circle. Slightly north of the picketing were a couple of school buses. Each had a handful of students stepping down onto the sidewalk.

Among the picketers was Lucia Rodriguez, who teaches English for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades at the high school. Rodriguez, who has been teaching 18 years, before the picketing began, said she was a member of the Contract Action Team and the school had about 120 teachers with all of them on strike. She also said it was good the teachers had a chance to vote on the tentative agreement while on strike because “what if we don’t like the agreement that they reached and we already came back to work.” She added, “It’s fundamentally democratic to do that (vote) while we are out.”

Also, among those out on strike and in support was Dan Castillo, who’s a history teacher at the high school. Castillo was with his two daughters—Daniela Castillo, who’s in the 9th grade at Banning and Dahlia Castillo, who’s in the 12th grade also at Banning. Daniela said, “We support him because we believe in the cause as well. She defined the cause as “more nurses, more funding for our schools, more counselors and librarians, smaller class sizes, control of charter schools and co-locations.” Dahlia said, “We know why we are here and we…fully support our all teachers and all the staff that’s out here with us….and we know that public education is important.”

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On far left, is Dan Castillo, high school history teacher at Phineas Banning High School, the father of Daniela Castillo, who is a 9th grade student at Banning, holding bullhorn, and to the right is Dahlia Castillo, the other daughter of Dan Castillo, a 12th grade student at Banning, leading chants; photo by Barry Saks, Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Dan Castillo, 45, who’s been teaching for 23 years, said he was a product of public education. He added, “I really believe this is ground zero for a war for public education. I don’t think it is just about Los Angeles. I think with the growing charter school movement. I believe there is a serious threat to public education right now and I believe we have to win this war because if we lose here in L.A., they we’ll repeat this formula nationwide.”

While picketing, the teachers, students and community allies chanted: UTLA, UTLA; I don’t know but it’s been said, “Billionaires on the Board of Ed;” Everywhere we go people want to know who we are. So we tell them, “We are the mighty, mighty union, fighting for justice and for education;” Tell me what democracy looks like. “This is what democracy looks like;” We teach, we care, our contract should be fair; Look up, look down, Wilmington is a union town.

Before retirement, Barry Saks was a Service Employees International Union Local 660 (now 721) Shop Steward. He was at different times the Vice Chair and Chair of the bargaining units he was in.

UTLA to Strike LAUSD

12 Jan

United Teachers of Los Angeles, representing more than 33,000 teachers, is poised to strike Monday, Jan. 14, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl recently characterized, as “a strike for our students….for our schools, for educational justice, for racial justice, and to defend the future of public education.”

The district’s website, on Friday, Jan 11, said, “We are extremely disappointed…UTLA has rejected Los Angeles Unified’s revised offer without proposing any counter offer. UTLA has refused to continue contract negotiations. More than 48 hours remain until Monday when UTLA plans to strike, and we implore UTLA to reconsider. A strike will harm the students, families and communities we serve, and we have a responsibility to resolve the situation without a strike.”

Meanwhile, an email in part from the union, also on Friday, said, “Today, just as LAUSD representatives were passing out a new proposal, UTLA bargaining team members began to see on social media that (Superintendent Austin) Beutner was holding a press conference downstairs to review the same proposal. More disrespect – Beutner saying he’s able to bargain “around the clock” but skipping the last two sessions. More bargaining in the media rather than meeting face-to-face with educators (sic).  More lies about what the district has and what the district can do.”

An email from the union sent Thursday, Jan. 10, said that a Superior Court ruled the union could strike.  An email the previous day from the union said it was postponing the strike to avoid confusion.

Scott Mandel, who is the chair of UTLA (San Fernando) Valley East Area, on Monday, Jan. 7, said, “I went through the ’89 strike 29 years ago, we are so much better prepared now than we were then.  Our teachers are more unified now than we were then.”

Mandel, who is also the chair of the union’s National Board Certified Teachers Committee and has a Ph.D. in Education: Curriculum and Development from the University of Southern California, added if there were a strike, it wouldn’t be about money.  He said the union was asking for 6.5 percent and the Los Angeles Unified School District had already agreed to 6 percent.  He said it would be “ridiculous” to strike over the difference.  A strike would be about support for the students.  The union’s demands are for a “class size reduction,” for “a nurse in every school, every day,” for “a full-time librarian in every secondary school,” for more counselors, for the elimination of all testing that isn’t federal or state mandated and for “the regulation of charter growth.”

The UTLA Valley East Chair, who’s been teaching for 34 years at LAUSD, ended passionately.  He said, “Beutner wants this strike, especially after (the) Janus (Decision).  Beutner thinks he can destroy the teachers’ union and turn this into a portfolio district, where schools are given over to privateers and charters…The heart and soul of public schools in LA Unified is on the line right now…This is our Armageddon.”

Kyle Stokes of KPCC, on Wednesday, Jan 2, interviewed Beutner, who became Superintendent in May 2018 and according to the district’s website, a business executive, served as First Deputy Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

The Superintendent said, “We all want the same set of things.  We all want to make sure everyone, who works in the schools, is better paid.  We all want to work to reduce class size and hire more nurses, counselors and librarians.  The challenge is how we do it with the resources we have.”

On the existing contract provision giving the district discretion on class size, the Superintendent said, “We have said for months and the fact-finder agreed with us is we should eliminate that provision and we need to agree on a new provision….UTLA said eliminate that provision and they will not sit down with us to try to agree on a new provision.”

Beutner, regarding the almost $2 billion reserve, said that almost $200 million had already been spent for raises to bus drivers, cafeteria workers, clerical staff and engineers who keep the air conditioners; that about $300 has been set aside for the 6 percent increase for UTLA members; that about $300 million because of law for certain students, as part of a local control funding program; about $250 million has been sent to schools to be spent at school principals’ discretion; and about $100 million for legal settlement, which he said left $700 million.  He insisted the reserves are being spent.  He said, “From an accounting standpoint, you wind up with some funny accounting because the reserves to pay UTLA members continue to grow.”

He added near the end of the interview the experts have told him the district is spending more than it’s bringing in.