In case you haven't heard, the door to much-needed education reform in L.A. will either be thrown open or slammed shut this fall. More specifically, the Los Angeles Unified School District is in the process of renegotiating its contract with the all-powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union.
Those unfamiliar with the self-serving antics of our local teachers union -- ahem, Occupy L.A. -- may not see the correlation between failing students and teachers' job protection. But in assuring that no K-12 educator is singled out from another, UTLA has become one of the biggest obstacles to fixing our broken system. Don't believe us? Ask the non-partisan, mixed-bag Los Angeles Civic Alliance:
In a letter sent to LAUSD and UTLA on Monday, 22 movers and shakers on the Civic Alliance throw their (significant) weight behind the "Don't Hold Us Back" campaign, currently being run by various charities and minority groups against the rigid demands of the teachers union.
LA Weekly freelancer Hillel Aron wrote of the initial supergroup:
What's fascinating about the crowd behind this ad is that it is heavy with key minority groups and most of the groups have serious, real track records in helping under-served people. And: these groups are dominated by Democrats.
Ten years ago, most of these people would have been extremely reluctant to call out UTLA.
That would have been seen as anti-union.
Now, the support of the Civic Alliance is one more nail in the coffin of a fading dictator. Opposing one of California's most politically powerful labor unions is no longer a radical stance.And no one's suggesting teachers should go underpaid and overworked -- just that they be held accountable for their job performance. Reformers like ex-LAUSD board member Yolie Flores have been arguing, exasperated, for years, that ineffective teachers need to be pushed out (especially in low-performing schools) for those pulling in results. But in the eyes of the teachers union, that would be unfair to its members.
In other words, the needs of one group of workers has been coming before California kids, and in turn the future of our floundering state.
No one can say the signatures on the Civil Alliance letter are all charter-backed Bill Gates types with corporate interests -- long the argument of anti-reformers. Instead, they range from lawyers to journalists to tree-huggers (though they're not exactly in the lower echelons of the 99 percent):
Edward J. Avila
President, Alliance for a Better Community
President & CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles
President & CEO, The J. Paul Getty Trust
Chairman Emeritus, Music Center
Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP
Founding Chair, LA County Business Federation
Attorney at Law
Chairman & CEO, City National Bank
President & CEO, California Community Foundation
Partner, Mayer Brown LLP
Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Philips, LLP
President & Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center
President, Board of Harbor Commissioners
Port of Los Angeles
Thomas M. Priselac
President & CEO, Cedars Sinai Health System
Robert K. Ross, M.D.
President & CEO, The California Endowment
John H. Semcken III
Vice President, Majestic Realty Co.
The Robert Simonds Company
President & CEO, Los Angeles Urban League
President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Matthew A. Toldeo
CEO & Publisher, Los Angeles Business Journal
Vice President, Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners
Former President, Los Angeles Urban League
Their letter asks LAUSD to give teachers and administrators more flexibility in changing the curriculum to fit the needs of students, and give the district itself more power to change up, evaluate and reward its employees. Seems simple enough -- but when it comes to UTLA, no reform is too simple to fight to the death (e.g.).
Good to see the opposition finally gain some middle-of-the-road flack.