A.J. Duffy is all but calling the ACLU, the Public Counsel Law Center and the Morrison Foerster law firm big, fat liars. Duffy, the anti-reformist head of the L.A. teachers union, is histrionically threatening to sue them, and LAUSD, to stop them from ending a “last hired, first fired” rule for teacher layoffs.
Turns out Duffy is the whopper-meister.
The legal-rights groups and Morrison Foerster, working pro bono, made a legal settlement with LAUSD that's being cheered nationally: up to 45 of L.A.'s poor schools will no longer be thrown into chaos by layoffs of young teachers. Inner-city kids whipsawed by UTLA seniority rules were saved by the U. S. Constitution. A.J. Duffy is waay livid:
Duffy, who I recently — to controversy — called “a pipsqueak in body and mind” to make the point that his coterie has turned UTLA into a national laughingstock, did not join the settlement talks between the three pro bono groups and L.A. Unified.
Now Duffy is telling a whopper to the media: that he was never invited to the talks.
Who is taking A.J. seriously these days?
As Catherine Lhamon of Public Counsel Law Center tells the Weekly, “After UTLA was made a party, we invited UTLA through their counsel to every meeting, sometimes by phone, sometimes by phone and email, sometimes in person. We repeatedly invited UTLA to attend.”
Repeatedly, the invitations were made through Jesus Quinones, the highly experienced counsel for UTLA. Repeatedly, UTLA's chiefs played their hand: silence.
Let's imagine a scenario in which the lawyer, Quinones, chose to keep A.J. in the dark.
Hmm. Nope. Can't. Didn't happen.
Just as well that Duffy played his weird game. The deal, cut without A.J., is groundbreaking for the nation, experts are telling the Los Angeles Times.
And, “It's terrific for the kids in LA Unified School District,” Lhamon says. Now a judge will make the final ruling on the deal.
The deal is believed to be the most sweeping end to teacher seniority in California, and some say in the United States, even though it applies to only 45 schools in Los Angeles. It cracks open a great big door, legally speaking.
Years ago, before the antics of people like Duffy, L.A. was poised to lead classroom reform — reform of the way teachers are trained, reviewed, graded, fired, hired and paid.
Then-UTLA chief Helen Bernstein knew change was coming. Her untimely death, as she was struck by a car while rushing across the street to a meeting about L.A. city government reform, left a hole at UTLA that has never, remotely, been filled.
It's nothing personal toward A.J.
UTLA chief Day Higuchi was equally mired in the anti-reform muck. For years, Higuchi cut purely labor deals that killed classroom shakeups and allowed ineffective teachers to hobble the educations of thousands of children. Higuchi persistently stopped reform.
Let's call Higuchi “the fixer.”
Duffy's successor will be just as anti-academics, just as anti-student, and just as mired in the yesteryear fights over working condition gripes — and obsessed with the notion of teachers as victims.
Let's call the future UTLA leader, who will replace A.J. next year — it doesn't matter who it is — “the creep.”
LAUSD is arguably the nation's largest government-financed producer of functionally illiterate young adults.
Los Angeles teachers will keep selecting these leaders to speak for them because they see themselves as the victims.
Check out the Comments produced by calling Their Dear Leader a “pipsqueak” — after Duffy publicly blamed three excellent Los Angeles Times reporters for the suicide of a teacher.
Agree or disagree with the Comments, it's illuminating stuff.
Well, it's coming anyway. Reform inside the classrooms.
Reform of the teachers who show movies, or who never learned math but have taught math for years, or who blame second languages when the teacher right down the hall has kids who are also from Mexico, but whose students somehow shine in English.
Somewhere in Los Angeles, there's a teacher with guts who will rise from the masses, and will one day reform UTLA.
After all, there are 33,000 or so LAUSD teachers — and none of them can be fired.
(Okay, okay, 4 of the 33,000 Los Angeles teachers can be fired: check out our groundbreaking L.A. Weekly investigative story “Dance of the Lemons” to learn why LAUSD could fire only 4 of 33,000 teachers in the past decade).
Among those 33,000 teachers, odds are that some teachers realize that they and their colleagues need to do a major weeding-out job, and serious self-reform.
Among those who fight charter schools, fight giving up absurd lifetime tenure earned after just two years of experience, fight teacher quality assessments, and all the other fixes UTLA stands against, one teacher went against this bitter tide and wrote this Comment the other day:
I don't agree with calling Duffy a pipsqueak. I might call him a lout, a
buffoon, or a bully. I'd describe him as crude, caustic, or comical.
Certainly, I'd never categorize him as a leader.
Nonetheless, I agree he should resign.