Friday, November 11, 2011

Advanced Union Busting In Los Angeles

A new coalition called Don't Hold Us Back is ganging up on the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in hopes of forcing them into accepting a host of ill-conceived and unproven “reform” measures that will weaken members’ job protections and possibly jeopardize student wellbeing.

Don’t Hold Us Back includes the usual wealthy Ed Deformers—bankers, lawyers and big business—along with community based organizations and liberal groups like the Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Community Coalition, according to the Los Angeles Times. They have asked Sup. John Deasy, UTLA leader Warren Fletcher, and L.A. Unified board members, to put aside their differences and work together to implement large scale reforms “for the sake of the children.”

Some of their reforms include ending seniority, turning failing schools over to charter organizations, using student achievement in teacher evaluations, and merit pay.

The Times interviewed several Mr. Block teachers, like Enrique Legaspi, Kyle Hunsberger and David Wu, who would gladly give up their own job protections and accept worsening working conditions just because some Ed Deformer says it’ll help kids do better in school. They would be happy to be evaluated based on their students’ test scores, even if those scores are based more on their socioeconomic background than the quality of teaching.

Of course there are problems with public education, especially in large, bureaucratic-heavy districts like LAUSD. But the two biggest problems are lack of funding for the schools and poverty for the students. No reforms are going to do anything about that, except maybe getting the rich to pay more in taxes, and even that will only provide a bandage for school funding, and nothing to ease poverty.

At the same time, any reform must have solid evidence to back its efficacy, otherwise it’s a waste of time, energy and resources and it adds unnecessary stress to a working and learning environment that is already stressful enough. If a reform is efficacious, it cannot also undermine teachers’ working conditions. If it requires extra work or longer hours, as virtually all reforms do, then teachers must be given a choice and offered generous compensation. They should not be expected to do all the extra work at home in the evenings and weekends, nor should they be paid workshop rate for the extra hours. They should receive double overtime pay for work over and above their normal duties.

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