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#LAUSD: The Story Behind John Deasy's Mystifying Labor Deal

School-zone-stop-225x300A couple of days ago on a Souther California Public Radio station talk show, two longtime education reform allies, LAUSD superintendent John Deasy and former LAUSD board member Yolie Flores, got into their first public disagreement. There with UTLA head Warren Fletcher to discuss the proposed new UTLA / LAUSD agreement, Deasy and Flores disagreed over whether the proposed deal would gut the accountability and competition elements that were key to 2009 Flores' Public School Choice initiative, a two year-old program that gave low performing schools over to new groups including outside charter organizations.

Deasy, UTLA, E4E, Randi Weingarten, and others have lined up behind the deal.  Charter organizations, some LA teachers, and reformers including Ben Austin and Mike McGalliard have criticized it sharply. (See previous post for news coverage and comments.) While Deasy says his deal retains PSC, Flores told me in an interview last night that the deal "completely undercuts" PSC.  "It eradicates the entire intent and purpose of PSC which is to use choice and competition as a powerful lever."  About the new role for teachers, and the three-year window that's given for improvement in the plan, Flores says "Autonomy’s great but without accountability you’re going to have a mess."

But the real issue may not be over what the proposed deal does or doesn't include, or whether it's ratified by the rank and file this month.  (Anything said or done while a deal is out for a vote should be taken with a grain of salt, anyway.)   The real news -- ignored or unnoticed by most of us living outside of LA -- may have been the departure of Flores from the LAUSD board and the failure to find and support a reform-minded candidate to replace her.  
Flores says she had to leave for financial reasons and was talking to a handful of folks about replacing her.  No clear candidate emerged, and in the end it was the chief of staff to the board president Luis Sanchez who ran -- and lost -- replaced by a union-friendly board member. And so,  like many superintendents before him, Deasy was brought in and hired by one board but works for a different one.

The change in board membership may do more to explain the deal that Deasy is pushing than anything else.He doesn't have strong board support for a tough, long fight over extremely contentious issues.  With LAUSD being broke, he doesn't have any money to leverage contract changes as in DC. He believes strongly in empowering local schools, and doesn't think he needs a contract change to implement student achievement-based teacher evaluations.  And so he trades away the choice and competition parts of PSC that were so objectionable to UTLA -- all he has, really -- in order to get (or is it give?) the union local control and a moratorium on charter handoffs.  

If this is anywhere near the full case, which it may or may not be, then the strongest criticism should probably be directed at the LA reform community, which for all its experience and heft apparently couldn't recruit or get elected a reform candidate to protect its efforts. As Denver and other places with elected boards have shown, reformers need to get in and do the dirty work of running candidates and getting out the vote. I don't care if it was Sanchez's "turn."  I'm not even sure I care what the board president wanted.  Now, as this deal seems to indicate, reform is paying the price. Los Angeles has gone from a place with a tremendous amount of energy and momentum to a place that seems dead in the water. 

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Choice and competition do not go away under this plan. What Yolie and her kin don't like is that the staggering advantages given to charters are now offered to teacher-led proposals. Isn't the point, after all, to replicate what works? Accountability does not have to be compromised.

The emperor's clothes fall right off when Yolie Flores, Ben Austin and their cronies protest that what's good for them can't be deployed by anyone else.

Guess it's not about the kids after all.

You say Deasy was brought in by the board? Deasy bypassed policy and protocol , a habit of his it seems, and the board failed to call foul. Broad and Gates with Cortines assistance slipped Deasy and putbhis pay and perks far above what our president earns when one includes the hefty 100-150k he gets ( like Cortines) as a consultant to Scholastic , the company making millions annually from LAUSD alone. At about. Ten bucks a pop, you'd thing the tests would be right, cogent and above cultural bias. You may assume it also has a system for analysis of data that evaluates teachers by recognizing remediation , relevant growth and viable standards, and you naturally expect there would be pragmatic practices in place ( as there are for AP and SAt tests ) to assure the integrity of these assessments. Kids don't bother to cheat on them, but obviously adults do.
The test packets are placed in teachers' closets many weeks before the test season, yet a single teacher accepts the invitation and cheats by using an actual sheet of the test to drill students and this, not the conflict of interest scandal with Scholastic, the commandeered election or the draconian assault on educators epitomized by LAT breaking laws that protect terchrs from being outted for less than perfect practices. Is what
On top of that we must watch this guy orchestrate cons like the Broad born lawsuit brought against lausdd demanding accountability to test scores that torpedoes teachers rather than a 40%+ margin of error inherent with the data. And a multitude of oondequacy
I assure you no one will fill the empty seat who Deasy doesn't want the owns the board the union and probably you too. He thinks these students are livestock and wants disposable teachers with 2 year degrees to teach scripted lessons. 5
These kids get no art, no music , no respect. They will drop out in droves or boycott . Now that is a feisty

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.