A short time ago, I joined with area leaders in sending a letter to Dr. John Deasy, Mr. Warren Fletcher and the UTLA Membership and Members of the Board of Education for LAUSD. We asked them to help our resources from Los Angeles to get the best possible chance for a productive, educated life. Here’s a copy of our letter:
Dear Gentlemen and Ladies:
As a collective set of individuals and organizations that represent the public and private sectors serving millions of families across this city, we consider the Los Angeles Unified School District a cornerstone of our community. When the nearly 700,000 students who attend schools in the District succeed academically, families do better, the economy thrives, and our citizens become more engaged. We succeed when LAUSA succeeds.
The current contract with UTLA expired on June 30th. We are urging 1.) that UTLA and LAUSD leadership complete negotiations on a new contract at a pace that matches the urgency of the need–teachers want it, students deserve it, and parents expect it. 2.) We are also urging that any contract provide key provisions set forth below.
We recognize student test scores have been increasing incrementally over the last few years; however, incremental advances are simply not enough. When only 56% of our students graduate from high school ini four years, we are failing close to half of our kids and consigning them to a life of poverty. We know the most critical difference in the academic success of a student is the quality of their teacher. Providing the students in our diverse district with the best possible education will require change and comprehensive reform in the way teachers and school leaders are recruited, compensated, evaluated, developed and retained.
The time is now for our leadership to do the right thing. We are sure you all agree that we must put the needs of students ahead of those of adults. We must protect our students’ right to a quality education and we support you in that pursuit.
Both the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles have an incredible opportunity to create real systemic change in our schools by negotiating one of the most important labor contracts in the history of this city. However, there seems to be no urgency to make the changes that would ensure that EVERY student has access to quality teaching – notsome students who are lucky enough to be in high-performing charter schools, pilot schools or other teacher-led models that are graduating upwards of 90% of their poor children of color and who are proving it can be done.
We urge you to come to agreement on the following provisions:
- Expand autonomy to every school so that teachers and principals have more flexibility and are empowered to design the type of curriculum, schedule and interventions that they feel will work.
- Empower principals to build their own teams and recruit teachers; stop forcing them to take “must-place” teachers based on factors that have nothing to do with student achievement. Principals should be empowered to hire who they want, and not have to deal with forced placements of teachers.
- Include consideration of school/program needs and teacher performance when implementing personnel decisions, including reductions in force, transfers, displacements, assignments, and return rights.
- Guarantee that every school can vote on agreements that clearly state what is expected for employees at each school site (elect-to-work agreement), and that any school whose staff votes for such an agreement is allowed to implement it.
- Provide multiple measure evaluations to teachers, in which observations by academic leaders, student “academic growth over time” data, and stakeholder (teacher, parents, and student) feedback, and a teacher’s contribution to the school are used to evaluate teacher quality.
- Connect appropriate professional development to teachers so they may use the evaluation data to improve their practice.
- Provide mechanisms for teachers to receive additional compensation for being effective, not for taking additional courses, and for taking on harder assignments.
While we know that our schools are severely under-resourced, people do not want to fund a broken system. Start putting kids first and the community will overwhelmingly support you. We call on the Superintendent, the LAUSD school board and the House of Representatives of UTLA to approve a new landmark contract. The public expects you to do the right thing for the students of Los Angeles.
Edward J. Avila
President, Alliance for a Better Community*
President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles*
President and CEO, The J. Paul Getty Trust*
Chairman Emeritus, Music Center*
Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP* Founding Chair, LA County Business Federation*
Attorney at Law*
Chairman and CEO, City National Bank*
President and CEO, California Community Foundation*
Partner, Mayer Brown LLP*
Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP*
President & Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center*
President, Tree People*
President, Board of Harbor Commissions Port of Los Angeles* System*
Thomas M. Priselac
President & CEO, Cedars Sinai Health System*
Robert K. Ross, M.D.
President & CEO, The California Endowment*
John H. Semcken III
Vice President, Majestic Realty Co.*
The Robert Simonds Company*
President & CEO, Los Angeles Urban League*
President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce*
Matthew A. Toledo
CEO & Publisher, Los Angeles Business Journal*
Vice President, Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners*; Former President Los Angeles Urban League*