UTLA steps into LAUSD reform battle

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Opening another front in the battle for control of the LAUSD, a coalition of nonprofit groups led by the teachers union is set todaycq to unveil its own vision for reforming the 727,000-student school district an attempt to pre-empt the mayor’s own announcement about the district in his State of the City speech Tuesday. The proposal calls for an expanded board of education of about 11 full-time members earning reasonable pay, lowering class size and increasing teachers’ accountability in training faculty and creating curricula. Some elements of the plan echo the ideas proposed by the mayor in a draft plan he floated to members of the community, including decentralizing the district and seeking more education funding from the state. The goal: a radical reform of the second-largest school district in the nation, UTLA President A.J. Duffy said. “We want to change the way the district does business, we want to change the way the education is delivered to students in the L.A. community and we’ve worked to create this community coalition of partnerships so that together we can do a broad range of reforms that are not just education-centered,” Duffy said. “We’re interested in working with business interests, the city and community groups to bring back things like affordable housing and health care.” “I know people would like to say we’d like to one-up the mayor, but it would be unfortunate if people focused on the timing aspect rather than the content of the reform program we will be presenting to the Los Angeles community,” Duffy said. Parts of the plan such as allowing teachers to modify the curriculum will be handled with the district through negotiations, while others call for concerted actions through legislation, Duffy said. The idea of giving teachers the power through their union to develop and assess curricula has shades of an unsuccessful 2002 bill by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg that was pushed by the California Teachers Association. That bill would have granted teachers unions unprecedented power by making curriculum issues part of the labor negotiations process. District officials said they believed some of the ideas could be worked out, but they disagreed with others, including giving more local control at school sites, particularly over the curriculum. Board President Marlene Canter said she continues to be very much in favor of a managed standards-based curriculum, believing that is the source of students’ fast-improving test scores. “I’ve always believed that the strength of our relationship between the union and the district is one of the biggest levers for change. I don’t agree with everything in their vision, but that’s how relationships and conversations go,” Canter said. “While there is more room for teacher input on curriculum, I don’t believe it should be teacher-driven. As a board, we’ll look at all ideas. I’m just happy the city is engaged in discussing education.” For example, the plan proposes a waiver program that would allow schools to have the same freedoms charter schools receive to stem the tide of students defecting to the independent public schools. The issue has been a sticking point in recent months, particularly with Woodland Hills’ Parkman Middle School, because the district has been hesitant to give school sites more autonomy, while the union has been pushing the waiver program. But both the Los Angeles Unified School District and union officials agree the next step is to begin meaningful conversations to implement the plan. Board member Jon Lauritzen said many of the ideas in the UTLA-led plan are concepts the district is interested in implementing. “Most of the things that were in there looked like things that we’ve been supporting all along, like more local control, particularly at the school site level, and I think that it will be discussed,” Lauritzen said. “Some of the issues they’re raising are things we’re already working on, like trying to develop a program that would allow the schools greater independence, particularly in the area of managing their budgets, and we’ll do it in a public process.” The union worked with community-based organizations including the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the Central American Resource Center, InnerCity Struggle and Community Coalition to develop their plan. Marvin Andrade, director of programs for the nonprofit community-based group CARECEN, said their plan can be implemented immediately. “Our call to action for equity and excellence in L.A. public schools has nothing to do with the mayor’s plan and it is not an alternative to the mayor’s plan. We are aware that even if what the mayor is proposing was decided tomorrow, it would take a very long time to be implemented and it’s very complex,” Andrade said. “In the meantime, there’s a lot that needs to be done. We’re talking about governance and funding, and I think our vision addresses the needs that have to be worked on now.” [email protected] (818) 713-3722last_img read more

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