Is Deasy Leveraging Himself To Passify UTLA?
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the nation, faces staggering budget cuts and a protracted battle with its teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), over attacks on seniority and tenure, massive increases in private charter schools, and publication of teachers’ value-added scores. Incoming Superintendent John Deasy will have his hands full managing these issues without instigating a full blown uprising by L.A. teachers. This may be why, in a recent public appearance, he appeared to oppose the corporate Ed Reform agenda and support a progressive health agenda for L.A. children.
In the speech, Deasy called for free health, vision and dental care for all Los Angeles students who lack it. While this goal is compassionate and sensible (lack of health insurance is a major cause of absenteeism for students) he had no plan for bringing it to fruition. With LAUSD, L.A. city and the state of California all facing large budget deficits, this laudable goal is really more window dressing than a serious reform goal.
In the speech, Deasy also attacked former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, accusing her of becoming too political and polarizing. He said she has fallen prey to hyper-orthodoxy on reform and shut the door on fruitful collaboration with groups such as teachers unions. Yet Deasy also supports much of the same corporate Ed Defrom orthodoxy, such as the notion that teachers must be replaced when they don’t improve student achievement. To his credit, he did concede that schools districts cannot “fire their way to success,” either.
The biggest clue that he intends to co-opt the union was his statement that UTLA was not too intransigent to work with, a concession he undermined with his naïve belief that charters and traditional schools can be allies.