Dogpile on LA School Board Races

It’s election day in Los Angeles, and Sarah Favot at LA School Report has been doing a sterling job keeping track of who is spending what on the school board races that will likely determine how charter-friendly or union-friendly the board will be.

Right now the charter schools association has doubled the spending of the teachers’ unions, but United Teachers Los Angeles is under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission over a mailer UTLA claims is not an independent expenditure in support of board president Steve Zimmer.

A UTLA-friendly board will free the union to create that promised “state crisis,” so the outcome of this election will have larger repercussions. In addition to UTLA’s contributions, the California Teachers Association has so far contributed $250,000 to the campaign for Zimmer and Imelda Padilla, with AFT’s political action committee adding about $521,000.

Even for a district as large as Los Angeles, that’s a big commitment to a single school board. One wonders if it might have been better spent in $5,000 increments to capture school board seats all across the country.


Sen. Collins Gets No Love For Her DeVos Vote

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. This made her a champion of teachers’ unions and DeVos opponents, for a few minutes anyway.

The Portland Press Herald reports that Collins is taking heat from her erstwhile admirers for helping pass DeVos out of committee before voting against her on the Senate floor.

During Congress’ February recess, Sen. Susan Collins faced protesters at home, many of them angry about her handling of the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial secretary of education. Collins was one of only two Republican senators to vote against DeVos on the Senate floor, but she voted to let the Michigan billionaire out of committee one week earlier.

“The DeVos nomination is Susan Collins in a nutshell – say one thing to your constituents and another to your Washington insider friends,” protest organizer April Humphrey of Yarmouth, a co-founder of the group Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said at the time. “Collins had the opportunity to stop Betsy DeVos and her extreme education agenda in committee, but instead she played politics with our kids’ education.”

…“Suppose every senator always sent a name out of committee to the entire Senate. … Why bother with the committee?” asks Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers’ union. “Senator Collins chose to send the nomination forward in spite of having reservations as to her qualifications.”

Collins’ relationship with the teachers’ union has always been shaky at best. A Republican senator in a blue state has to be nimble, but Collins’ tightrope-walking didn’t help her politically in this case.


Here It Comes Again

It’s hopeless, I know.

This morning we got the big news:

“Educators within a Chicago charter school network have begun taking steps toward forming what would be the nation’s largest charter teachers union.”

“…have begun…”

“…taking steps…”


“…what would be…”

This is not to make light of the efforts of the teachers involved. If they want a union, and they can persuade enough teachers to join in, God bless them and good luck.

Right now they have 131 signatures on an informal petition, and they need 30% of the bargaining unit, which we’re informed is about 800 teachers, to force a representation election. That’s 240. Then they would need a majority vote to form the nation’s largest charter school union and turn this into real news, instead of wishful thinking.

Even the Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman says they are still “a ways off.”

The American Prospect is already lining up a story, and we’ll definitely see it elsewhere. I’m still waiting to read a story about charter school teachers who don’t want a union, or who decertified a union, or turned away a union organizing campaign, or rejected the union in a representation election.


NEA Getting Down to Business?

I’m told this year’s National Education Association Representative Assembly, to be held in Boston July 2-5, will be markedly different from past conventions.

A lot of the ceremonial stuff – speeches, awards, announcements, etc. – will be truncated, removed, altered, rescheduled… all in an effort to streamline the proceedings and leave sufficient time for debate and voting.

I’m also informed that one of RA’s longest standing traditions may come to an end – the betting pool on adjournment time. Cramming on the final day happens all the time in education, and NEA often finds itself taking extreme measures in order to vacate the convention center in a timely fashion. In the 19 years I’ve covered the event, adjournment time has ranged from about 6 pm to about 1 am.

The plan is to end the convention at a designated time on the last day. AFT operates this way and does so by referring all remaining business to its Executive Council. I’m not sure if this is what NEA has in mind, or how well that would go over with the delegates. As an outsider, I would find it a welcome change.


Very Different Union Elections in NY, LA

Alex Caputo-Pearl was re-elected president of United Teachers Los Angeles with 82 percent of the vote. Turnout was low, but now Caputo-Pearl is free to proceed with his ambitious plans to “create a state crisis.”

His fire and brimstone approach is the opposite of what we are seeing with the New York State United Teachers.

In an election three years ago, Richard Iannuzzi was unceremoniously bounced as NYSUT president by a slate led by Karen Magee. Magee was backed by the supreme power in NYSUT, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.

Oh, and Iannuzzi’s executive vice president and former UFT leader, Andrew Pallotta, joined Magee’s slate.

Having served her purpose of placing NYSUT’s reins safely in the hands of UFT, Magee just announced she will not run for re-election, but will instead move up (?) to a newly created position with the New York State AFL-CIO.

This clears the way for Pallotta to run for the top job at NYSUT. Only a certified cynic would suggest this was the plan all along. Fortunately, I have a diploma.

Pallotta is the ultimate insider. Unlike Caputo-Pearl, he won’t be storming the castle. He’ll be schmoozing with the king while stealing the grain supply.

New York and Los Angeles are two very different environments, so perhaps each approach is best suited to its situation. The fireworks don’t start until the Caputo-Pearls and the Pallottas have to confront each other about the overall direction of the labor movement. That’s worth waiting for.