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Teachers: Is It Time (Again) For Union Reform?

Union reform has a long and mostly disappointing history, full of rhetorical feints and high hopes quickly dashed on the rocks of brute politics and institutional inertia.  There was a brief window of time during the mid 2000s when some thought that unions and charters could find a way to work together rather than fighting each other to the death.  Before that, there was a network of reform-minded union local presidents working with districts and boards. Some people thought that AFT president Randi Weingarten would become a strong voice for reinventing teachers unions as more than wages and working conditions.  

It all seems like ancient history given the current strife between unions and reformers and the increasing stridence of some union leaders.

image from laschoolreport.comAll that being said, it's still going to be interesting to watch what's going on in Los Angeles.  Firebrand union president AJ Duffy was ousted a couple of years ago.  Under a court oder, the union agreed to a teacher evaluation plan that make student achievement part of teacher evaluations.  Most recently, 100 new teacher/union reps were just elected to the UTLA House of Represenatives, which sets policy and chooses candidates for the union.  Two thirds of the regions had competitive races, with nearly 400 candidates applying to win 209 positions.  

Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe warn us that the newcomers aren't all reform-minded rabble-rousers: "They are concerned about job security, teacher turnover, performance evaluations and funding levels, the two LA Times reporters write in their latest story (Contested UTLA panel elections signal internal fissures).  However, "they are also worried about what some see as a combative but ineffectual and sometimes wrongheaded union and a demanding, ossified district bureaucracy."

One thing it will be interesting to see is whether there are any moves within the new HOR to overturn or change the UTLA endorsement of LAUSD school board candidates, which were made in December even before the final list of candidates was available.   There are three seats open, out of seven, and spending on the races could reach $10 million.

The HOR endorsed one incumbent, Steve Zimmer, and a slew of others (Teachers Endorse Zimmer), while SEIU endorsed Zimmer, Board president Monica Garcia (a Deasy supporter, and a middle-ground candidate (SEIU Endorses Garcia, Zimmer and Sanchez).  A coalition of reform advocates has yet to announce its official candidates (Who Will The Coalition Pick For District 6?). 

Teachers have also yet to ratify the tentative agreement between UTLA and LAUSD over the use of student achievement measures in teacher evaluation, which some have decried as weak and unworkable and others object to because of their inclusion of raw test scores. (See Voices Urge “No” Vote On EvaluationReformer Calls For Stronger State Evaluation Law, and Questions About Teacher Evaluation Deal).

The new HOR will be ratified January 23 and have their first meeting January 30.


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