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Antonio’s Last Stand: Battle for LAUSD, City Hall

Antonio Villaraigosa has finally staked out his claim as the leader of Los Angeles; now all he has to do is lead.

He knows good and well what the No. 1 problem is: Public employee unions are out of control. They have gone from their rightful role as bargaining agents for workers to policy makers, successfully throwing their weight around in elections to the point that too many elected officials are little more than stooges for their interests.
custer.jpg
As the elected leader of the city, the mayor has the primary responsibility of resolving the financial crisis brought to a head by the economic downturn.

By stepping to the forefront of the movement to reform the school system, he has now fully asserted himself as the man responsible for ending the LAUSD’s 30-year record of failure.

The city’s financial troubles are far less complicated than the challenge of providing a quality education to nearly 700,000 children.

LA doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem mainly caused by years of sweetheart contracts with its workers that no longer are affordable.

The mayor knew, and acknowledged knowing, that the sweetened retirement deal that he and the City Council offered the unions threatened the city with bankruptcy. He pulled it off the table last spring but then lost his nerve and gave in.

It has fallen apart now, which has left the Council shivering in its boots, or more likely basking in the sun on some faraway beach where its members have fled to escape their responsibilities.

Quite simply as the city’s financial bureaucrats have repeatedly said, albeit timidly, payroll costs must be reduced. Giving a bunch of cash and enhanced pensions to workers who are ready to retire anyway doesn’t achieve this. Furloughs and deferral of raises don’t achieve the permanent reduction in payroll costs either.

There’s no mystery about how to reduce payroll costs: You either lay off workers or you reduce their pay and benefits.





The mayor’s credibility rests entirely on his screwing up his
courage and finally breaking his silence on what must be done. All the
photo ops and self-promoting tweets in the world won’t alter the
perception that he shirked his responsibility in the face of this
crisis.

Coward or hero – the choice is plainly his.

It’s no different with the schools.

The school board debate Tuesday was revealing.
The
mayor stepped in front of a growing movement to break up the district
by giving autonomy to individual schools and helped bring several
thousand supporters of reform to LAUSD headquarters.

Former
school board member Jackie Goldberg, teacher union leader A.J. Duffy
and others denounced the whole idea of parents, teachers, principals
actually running schools as some sort of right-wing conspiracy to keep
the poor and minorities in ignorance – as if it wasn’t their own
policies and actions that had caused the LAUSD’s failure all these
years.

They mouthed the usual words about how all that matters
is  the children but in the end all they said that mattered was
preserving union contracts – contracts that have protected the
incompetent, created a culture of mediocrity or worse and prevented the
district’s best educators from being appropriately rewarded for their
achievements.

With the outcome certain, they had little left in
their arsenal beyond threatening to destroy the political careers of
those who voted for the reform plan.

Poor Steve Zimmer, the
rookie school board member, was handed the job of trying to sabotage
the plan to allow for charter operators and other educational
organizations to run 50 new schools and dozens of failing schools.

Caught
between his union loyalty and the desires of many of his Westside
constituents for local control, Zimmer stammered and stuttered and
stalled the vote for more than two hours with thinly disguised
amendments that would have undermined any hope for success of this
deconstruction of LAUSD.

It was clear he didn’t have a clue what
he was talking about most of the time. All he cared about for all his
heartfelt mutterings was making sure that no matter who runs the
schools, all the teachers will have to be members of the UTLA and that
the union contract would be fully in effect.

That his proposal
was illegal didn’t matter. The goal was to use coercion to protect the
UTLA contract that as much as anything is responsible for the failure
of one reform effort after another.

When the vote was taken,
Zimmer joined the majority in supporting the reform plan and offered a
half-coherent explanation that seemed to amount to a vow to do
everything he can to prevent any real changes from occurring.

At LAUSD, at City Hall, the battle lines are drawn.

Antonio
Villaraigosa is in command. He has chosen this moment to make his stand
as a leader. It will either be his last stand or the moment will make
the man and he will rise up and achieve the promise he once seemed to
have.

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26 Responses to Antonio’s Last Stand: Battle for LAUSD, City Hall

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is pure BS. The LAUSD problems are not the unions. What you’re saying is that if workers can give up their medical benefits and retirement every thing would be just fine. That’s a lie equal to Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq or the Financial Crisis of October 2008. What happened yesterday was about the privatization of public resources. And we saw how well that worked out in Iraq.
    Villaraigosa has no business imposing himself on education. And if you’re not better informed about education, you’re no better than a con man selling snake oil.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Go Antonio. I am a strong union supporter and disagree with this blog on many issues.
    But, UTLA is easily the biggest of many problems at the LAUSD.
    7:02, its not about contracts-its about the ability to get rid of bad teachers. Some charters pay teachers more money than UTLA, but without lifetime job guarantees after 2 years.
    Whats worse is that poor and middle class kids have to go to these terrible schools. Marie Elena Durazo and SEIU are committing mortal sins by not sacking Duffy. They are hurting their own kids, who are the ones who go to these terrible schools.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The L.A. Times story did a good job of documenting that it’s almost impossible to fire a teacher. That is one of the biggest problems. Schools filed with incompetent teachers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    When will people stop using the LA Times as an objective source of information? Geez, I’m happy you’re even reading this blog, although the author seems to have drank all the mayor’s kool-aid too.
    Talk to someone at a school. Don’t go by media reports. You would see that teachers too, feel abandoned and set-up for failure NOT by the union, but by state funding, legislators who pass proposals for the sake of political gain, and the inept school board who can’t even fire bad workers. The passage of this motion is the ultimate admission of their collective failure in their elected duties, and may be illegal. The people elected them to manage schools, not outsource their duties.
    As for this blog post, Ron Kaye, are you saying that teachers are cheap labor whose costs and benefits must be reduced? Following this logic, veteran teachers should be laid off due to costs, and replaced by younger, cheaper teachers. The hypocrisy! Were you educated by cheap labor? Would you want your child or grandchild taught by a disposable teacher who won’t/can’t catch the class bully who has now made your child his b*%$@? Teaching is an art, a profession, and the same old free market theories DON”T APPLY. Loser.

  5. KK says:

    Let see if I understand 9:55 correctly, don’t use the LA Times as an objective source, speak to someone at the Teacher’s Union.
    In other words, don’t let the facts confuse you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The L A Times is NOT some “objective” source any more than Ron is, KK — and he was the editor of a major paper, remember? He’s told us how he felt the corporate management wanted him/ reporters and editors in general to neutralize their personal views into something more akin to “just the facts” but it creeps in, and depending on the writers, seeps in heavily. Some “reporting” about certain people and issues is really editorializing. Some reporters link to biased blogs in their articles very openly. It’s not just Jill Stewart who does it. So by all means read the Times AND other papers but if you take that as the final word on anything or anyone you’re just naive.
    As for the substance: I agree that being unable to fire bad teachers without a grueling process, is far more the problem than salary and benefits. If a veteran teacher shows results in the achievement of her students, he or she’s worth every penny of the extra pay. A new teacher may in some cases be as good or better, more enthusiastic, better able to connect to students and so on, but in my experience with my kids at public school (I’ve cycled in and out of private, have a good basis of comparison) the best teachers were from AMONG the veterans. Note that does not mean all or even most veterans are the best. But when you get a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold.

  7. KK says:

    I am sorry but the idea that news reports aren’t objective is just hooey. No, reporters aren’t perfect–they are people–but they try their damnest and I will give more credence to what I hear from the Times or the Daily News than from some blowhard on a blog with an axe to grind.
    This nonsense of not trusting objective sources means that there is no place to get facts on events, which means that there can be no rational discussion unless we all attend every event.
    I find this distrust towards reporters agenda driven, at least, and destructive to the exchange of ideas.

  8. Sandy Sand says:

    It’s an interesting coincidence that “lead” and “lead” are spelled the same way, because everything the mayor leads us to believe he will do falls like a lead balloon.
    This may be his last chance to prove he has the cajones to do what’s right, but more than likely his last “stand” is built on a bed of quicksand.

  9. Anonymous says:

    No KK. Wrong. At 9:55 am I stated you should see for yourself what is or isn’t happening at schools, not just read the LA Times which is NOT an objective source of information, at least as far as Jason Song. To focus time after time on 150 teachers out of 48,000 who have been accused of wrongdoing (not proven, but alleged) is tantamount to a which hunt and ignores the far greater problems with public ed such as the billions of dollars cut from schools in recent years. What makes a better story? Pervert teachers or underfunding?
    Again and again the union is assailed as being the biggest obstacle to learning, but if Song had written articles using Journalism 101 techniques, like reporting both sides of the story, he would see that in fact, it is the lazy administrator who fails to do a good job documenting sub-par teachers who by default earn tenure within 3 years. Or worse, instead of doing the right thing and beginning dismissal procedures for a tenured teacher, you let them transfer with a good recommendation so they are no longer your problem. But its easier to just blame the union, right? And people like you have bought it hook, line and sinker. You know, may you be treated at your future nursing home by workers educated at charter schools by cheap labor.

  10. KK says:

    How interesting, 7:34, that you remain anonymous. Underfunding? Single largest slice of the California budget goes to education and California teachers are the highest paid in the country. Go ahead, attack those vicious set of facts.
    You want us to take your word, a paid member of the education system, over a source like the LA Times because you are more objective?
    Here’s your biggest problem. I had a pretty damn fine education and know total bs when I see it. And I am not alone. More and more people are demanding change from a failed system.
    Keep the bluster up and keep doing what you are doing; pretty soon, the present system will be gone with the wind.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Salaries? Who said anything about salaries? Appropriate funding would reduce class size, not increase salaries! How about funding schools at 20:1, K-12? Think public schools would improve then? Yeeeees. As far as being the highest paid teachers, cite your sources. Oh wait, you will probably say the Daily News database. The fact that you go straight to greed on the part of teachers when “underfunding” is mentioned shows you have indeed, bought Jason Song’s kool-aid
    When you are ill, do you seek a doctor’s opinion, or a journalist’s?
    How ironic. You say you got a “pretty fine damn education”. I guess as long as you got yours, who cares about today’s kids.
    I don’t expect you to do anything, KK, by the way I am MM. You or I won’t be affected by any change in the system. We both have our educations. But let there be no doubt that the privatization of public schools will lead to a segregation of students even worse than the de facto one we have today. Because if you are a special ed student, or have ADD, or slacker parents, these charters will find a way to keep you out. What will remain is a charter district of the highest motivated families, and a public one with the rest of the kids no one else wanted to teach. I hope you get the change you wanted.

  12. Anonymous says:

    KK, you sound like a naive fool and arrogant too. Usually those two traits go hand in hand. Blind and total faith in the “objectivity” of anything writen in the L A Times, LOL, you poor thing. Despite your “fine education.” And does that go for every paper, or just them? Say, the Daily News, Weekly, New York Post as well as New York Times? Or wait, the NY Times is “liberally biased,” right? Exactly which papers are as infallible as the Pope and which aren’t, in your discerning mind?

  13. Priscilla says:

    I like the way how KABC’s Doug McIntyre laid it down on Mayor V’s Schools Facing the Music
    Check it out:
    http://podcasting.fia.net/5147/3880218.mp3
    I agree on the fact that we desperately need to do something about the LA School system, but I’m not sold that Mayor V is the man to do it.

  14. Bob G says:

    One of the most serious issues that is barely discussed is the ability of new teachers to gain tenure after a couple of years, without adequate vetting. At that point in their careers, the new teachers are still in the learning phase — in training, one might say — and it isn’t always possible to figure out which of them will turn out to be excellent teachers and which ones will never be all that good or will be early burnouts.
    We have another phenomenon that isn’t limited to LAUSD, but may be worse here: Teachers move out of the classroom into administrative positions in a track that they perceive as career improvement. In lots of ways it is, because they get paid more, get to avoid runny noses and crying and all the other stresses of education’s frontline, and gain a title and an office. From our outsiders’ point of view, they are mainly a financial strain on the system. Obviously there is a need for some administration in every system, but when the career path of choice is to stop doing what the system is actually supposed to do, there is something wrong — it would be like major league baseball players trying to become umpires as the career path of choice.
    And yes, it is important that the really serious cases of teacher misconduct be handled in a fair but timely manner. Cases of first degree murder routinely get tried within two years or so, and misdemeanors even quicker, but that is because the criminal justice system is designed to reach decisions and stick by them. What is equally troublesome is that the system is unable to deal with simple mediocrity in its teaching corps.
    Small class size is not necessarily the panacea that teachers would like us to believe. It is of course a great improvement in the life of the teacher because it is that much less grading to do. It’s fun to stand up at the chalk board and talk about things, but it isn’t fun to sit at home knowing that you have another forty homework assignments to correct. The line that teachers like to spout about “having more time to give personal attention” is a bit disingenuous for the most part — giving personal attention is usually for the problem students, because the OK students and the brains can figure things out during regular classroom discussion. If most of your students don’t get it when you present the distributive property of numbers, then maybe you just don’t know how to teach it to begin with.

  15. Spiffy says:

    I worked for both LAUSD and a charter school in L.A.
    The incompetence at the charter school, at the very top of the organization, was worse than the incompetence at the LAUSD school. The LAUSD administrators were at least overruled by the intelligent decisions made over their heads.
    Say what you will about LAUSD administrators but LAUSD has some highly skilled, highly educated and very intelligent people making decisions at the top.
    On the other hand, because of politics and contracts that protect people no matter how they perform in LAUSD, you also have some not-so-smart, not-so-well-informed people at the top.
    This is why the UTLA, with its constant mantra that the problems with the district rest solely on the shoulders of wealthy administrators, is wrong. The problems are not solely with the teachers, which is the charter school mantra, and they are not solely the fault if admin., which is the UTLA chorus.
    There are severe problems on both sides.
    So how do we solve these issues? Call Jimmy Carter? He brokered peace between Egypt and Israel, maybe he can heal L.A. schools too?
    But do not imagine charter schools are the magic answer. It is not true. Local control of schools and local input can help a lot, but charter schools will not necessarily include that in their plans.
    Charter school administrators can lie to parents and teachers just as easily as any other administrators. Ethics, shmethics!

    • concerned teacher says:

      You are so wrong! LAUSD is the worst and Admin. are not snart. They are puppets following who is in front of them_____________ ending with JOHN DEASEY!!!!

  16. KK says:

    I am reminded of the old husband cheating line when caught in flagrante delicito, “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

  17. El Quixotian says:

    Bob G…you’re my favorite…I love the umpire to teams ratio…I wonder what LAUSD averages.
    And aside from the homework issue, class size is all the more an issue when giving “giving personal attention” to disruptive students who make it impossible for the OK students to enjoy regular classroom discussion…And they think that shuffling around bad teachers is a problem….
    Now, my declaimer is that I’ve two years into marriage to a gem of a veteran teacher, so while we find Duffy goofy, and the UTLA’s PAC agenda something to stay opted out of, but they still are the good guys compared to the tactics of those with whom they negotiate. And that’s before the mayor and his puppets started pulling (at) strings.
    Truth is, LAUSD’s problems are related to poor management, arguably criminal from a fiduciary basis. I was amazed at process of Greatly Unacceptable Accounting Pranks used as work-arounds in their horrendous implementation of the new payroll system. For which DeLoitte was perfectly satisfied to only charge a half and arm and half a leg, even though they had recommended to do much development then the out of the box version…you know, little things like recalculating the hourly adjustments to the standard Monthly Pay which is based on an Annual Salary where payee is off track 3 to 4 months. But since the previous system was even less transparent to regulators, this sort of thing was waived since anything was considered an improvement.
    But I’m starting a development theme developing here, just like the CRA. The mayor’s stiff English speaking style may not be a teleprompter pacing issues. You have to read the lips of those whose lap he’s on. Not all unions, certainly not UTLA, but we saw how IBEW likes to monopolize the monopoly (DWP). Meanwhile, redevelopers like CIM replace small business with blight so the rents on Western plummet to Baltic rates, so it’s so cheap to build houses and hotels that money laundered through the CRA is pure profit. But eventually, the bubble bursts, and all of a sudden you have to dig deeper into what’s left of the General Fund, with any Power transfers they’re able to justify with ‘Bond Ratings’ rationale, to make up for the fact that the rank and file in the city still have pension guarantees, despite the fact that the City hedged their bets with the likes of MidTown Crossing.
    Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail!

  18. El Quixotian says:

    And so, the schools. Local Choice. How very ballsy. While all this is going on, while kk and mm are debating with straw men, while some parents are led to believe that this is the only path to quality education and others are reminding the Board that they’re unwittingly achieving the Right’s goal of obliterating public education. (I guess the Left has finally agreed that the system is broke, but they’d rather keep the money and reinvent a new one then let taxpayers keep the money with vouchers??
    No, this takes things to a whole new level.
    What we’re talking about is nothing more then a multi-million dollar shell game.
    We’re talking bond money that was specifically approved for construction, and maybe a little deferred maintenance here and there…slap on some puke beige on the august academies of auld alumni, we’re going to build stairways to nowhere! And with a token motion to proscribe Segregation, it’s a snap to segregate siphon off the new construction. (see earlier post about select unions and devious developers) And so, while the overcrowded older schools, which were to have been relieved with the capacity of the new campuses, are instead relegated to wallow in the scorecards which will be used as rationale to seize them, too.
    One wonders if as much quid quo pro goes between charters and our elected officials as developers/bill boarders. When are the true blue state/green liberals going to catch on to these Democrats in Name Only. I’m used to low density, open space tree huggers, but these faux socialists actually convince people that high density urbanization is the key to saving the planet. Real capitalists don’t bother building slums.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I BELIEVE THIS KIND OF CHANGE MAY BE PART OF THE RE-GENTRIFICATION PROCESS. GLOBALIZATION? EDUCATION FOR WHO? ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WHO? FOR ALL THOSE WHOM BELIEVE TEACHERS ARE NOT TEACHING, AND STUDENTS ARE NOT LEARNING…LET THEM JOIN THE TEACHING RANKS! LEAD BY EXAMPLE…MAYBE THE MAYOR SHOULD TAKE ON A FULL TIME TEACHING POSITION. LET HIM GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF CREDENTIALING, LESSON PLANNING, GRADING, COLLABORATING, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS, MANAGING A CLASSROOM, PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES, STULL EVALUATIONS, ETC…AND FOR ALL THOSE PROFESSIONALS, PARENTS, BUSINESS OWNERS, ENTREPRENEURS, SCIENTIST, SOCIAL WORKERS, COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, POLITICIANS, BLOGGERS, ETC… WHO WANT 21ST CENTURY PRODUCTIVE CITIZENS…JOIN THE TEACHING RANKS!…I AM SURE YOU HAVE A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE TO IMPART…REMEMBER WE HAVE CREATED AN ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT WHERE SOME CHILDREN ARE MORE INTERESTED IN VIDEO GAMES THAN PHILOSOPHY, MATHEMATICS, HISTORY, BIOLOGY, ECONOMICS, MECHANICS, ETC….JUST REMEMBER:
    “YOU REAP WHAT YOU SEW”

  20. El Quixotian says:

    Anon 4:37, Not sure I get the re-gentrification process, but as for teaching, I agree wholeheartedly!
    So please don’t take offense my ironically commenting that perhaps I’d have started retooling my career with a credential track after brushing up on items at the LACC campus slated or the Van de Kamp’s site were it not thrown under the Charter School bus.
    I’d try to add a SLAP at the supposed satelite for the Southwest Museum site, but despite one common denominator being the LACC Board, I can’t quite draw the line between them and the Autry…but I’ll work on it.
    Meanwhile, let’s hope the video game industry doesn’t start seeing their fodder as an alternative for the classroom!

  21. Prospective Teacher says:

    I am truly perplexed by the idea that we should attempt to solve the problems at LAUSD by paying teachers less and/or cutting their benefits. How will this help attract or retain highly qualified educators? How will this help our students? I have a BS in Biology and a Masters in Molecular Biology. The truth is that I could go into biotech and make far more than I ever will teaching high school science. I WANT to teach and am willing to trade material wealth for the personal satisfaction and joy that comes from teaching. It took a great deal of reflection to reach that decision. If teacher salaries and benefits are reduced, people like me will be highly discouraged from making that choice. We need to take a look at the hard reality that teachers of subjects in the highest demand, math and science, have other options in the employment market place. School districts need to be able to attract highly educated people from these fields and in order to do that they have to pay more than peanuts.

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  24. That is far too fine than predicted.

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