Three Walks to Victory

Above, Alex at a school visit to Sylmar Elementary. The group, under the leadership of Chapter Chair Sandra Ayala, committed to a fourth phone bank for the LAUSD School Board campaigns.

 

School Board campaign is crucial piece of our interlocking April/May action plan.

I am asking you to pause your reading of the UNITED TEACHER for five minutes right now and Sign Up to Canvass for three precinct-walking shifts in the School Board election campaign 

Quite simply, if we all walk three shifts, we will win on May 16.

Protecting our health benefits and winning a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve depends on us electing Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla to the LAUSD School Board.

Please take this moment to sign up.

I know it is a very busy time of year at school sites with the matrix, school site budgets, culminations and graduations, evaluations, and more.

And, it is an exceedingly busy time of year for UTLA organizationally, with School Board elections May 16, legislative committee hearings in April and May, the historic May 1 mobilization, our May 12 legislative actions, and our contract expiring in June, with health benefits negotiations on the horizon. Read more info on these actions in this UNITED TEACHER and at utla.net.

Amid this busy-ness, it is crucial you sign up to precinct walk.

I am so proud to work with school-site leaders like David Arellano at Gridley Elementary in Valley East, who led his school to quickly gather signatures on the local/statewide petition from the California Alliance for Community Schools, our new coalition with seven other large teachers’ locals in the state. On top of that, in a site meeting with me, David organized 19 of his co-workers to sign up to walk precincts for the School Board election.

I am proud to work with East Area school-site leaders Lucia Hernandez from Malabar Elementary, Rananah Lubovitch from Second Street Elementary, and Yolanda Tamayo from Lorena Street Elementary, who are mobilizing parents to the crucial May 12 actions at state legislators’ offices.

I am proud to work with school-site leaders like Jeni Nudell from Rosa Parks Learning Center in Valley West, who has done incredible work engaging co-workers and parents on the importance of UTLA standing in solidarity on May 1 for immigrant rights, worker rights, and resistance to the Trump/DeVos agenda. May 1 is important because it is the right thing to do and because it is central to coalition building with parents and community as we move toward strike readiness.

Your involvement in knocking on doors and talking with voters about the School Board race—the unambiguously most effective tactic for educators to use—is one part of an interlocking April/May action plan for our contract campaign for the Schools LA Students Deserve. Each part of the April/May action plan depends on and strengthens the other parts, and member involvement is the key to it all.

 

Signing the petition: the local angle

Winning a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve and protecting health benefits depends on every single one of our members understanding our UTLA bargaining platform and committing to fight for it. Signing the California Alliance for Community Schools petition builds this member buy-in, helps us pressure the district to reprogram monies and support our priorities, and lets us measure our organizational reach across the city as we build strike readiness.

 

Signing the petition: the statewide angle

Winning a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve and protecting health benefits depends on us fighting for changes in state policy. California chronically sits at between 40th and 50th among the states in per-pupil funding and is one of the most permissive states in allowing unregulated charter growth, which creates tremendous equity, access, and transparency problems and which siphons enormous sums of money from the district. If these state policies continue, our contract and health benefits bargaining over the coming years is going to be more and more like milking a starving cow. Signing the petition makes you part of an unprecedented movement across eight cities—the petition is moving in each of these areas—demanding that the state change its priorities.

 

Demanding action from state legislators in statewide May 12 demonstrations

Winning a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve and protecting health benefits depends on us organizing power and boots on the ground behind our legislative package. Remember, fighting for more state investment in schools and ensuring that unregulated charter growth does not undermine district finances are not abstract, far-away struggles: They fundamentally shape how much money is available for our bargaining. Rallies at four key state legislators’ offices will be your opportunity to speak truth to power and support our visionary legislative package: AB 842, AB 1360, AB 1478, and SB 808 (read more details below). We are visiting Assemblymembers Autumn Burke, Matt Dababneh, and Miguel Santiago, all of whom disappointingly abstained on charter accountability bills last year, and Senator Ben Allen, the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

We celebrate the courage and conviction of our bills’ sponsors: State Senator Tony Mendoza (SB 808) and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Mike Gipson (AB 1360, AB 1478, and AB 842, respectively).

The May rallies will support our work right now to pass 1478 and 1360 out of the Assembly Education Committee, send them to the Assembly floor and possibly on to the governor this summer. Bills 842 and 808 have shifted to two-year cycles, which is good because it gives us time to build grassroots power and a public narrative around charter accountability. With these bills active into 2018, they can continue to shape the debate at the LAUSD School Board, in the 2018 governor’s race, and around our strike readiness plan to protect health benefits and win a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve.

 

Volunteering for Steve and Imelda with the May 16 election right around the corner

Alex with Assemblymember Mike Gipson and Reclaim Our Schools LA at a news conference for charter accountability legislation.

Winning a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve and protecting health benefits depends on us electing a School Board that will vote to reprogram district monies to fund our priorities and that will vote for our health benefits and for a good contract. The School Board is the ultimate decider.

The 4-3 School Board vote on April 18 in support of the three charter accountability bills indicates how razor-thin the majority is on the Board that supports public education in the long term. If we lose the Zimmer and Padilla races, the Board flips, with potentially devastating consequences for our health benefits, our contract, and the fight for the Schools LA Students Deserve.

In that April 18 motion, George McKenna, Scott Schmerelson, Richard Vladovic, and Steve Zimmer voted for LAUSD to officially endorse the common-sense charter accountability bills in our legislative package. Here is a little more about each bill:

 

  • AB 1360 prevents student cherry-picking and arbitrary expulsions among charters.
  • AB 1478 supports financial transparency among charters and cuts against the Celerity charter experience of an administrator treating taxpayer money like a personal slush fund, paying herself almost $500,000 per year, regularly sporting new Armani suits, and taking a limousine to school every day.
  • SB 808 says that democratically elected local school boards should be the final arbiters in charter authorization, rather than county and state officials who are unelected and far removed from an understanding of local conditions.

Put another way, AB 1360 and AB 1478 simply put forward the widely supported idea that charter schools, as recipients of public money, should be held to the same fair and just standards as our district public schools. SB 808 simply puts forward that local knowledge should be respected, democracy matters, and local control should mean something. The underlying concept of all the bills is the same: Basic regulations should be applied to charters before the civic institution of public schooling is financially and educationally undermined.

School Board members Mónica Garcia, Mónica Ratliff, and Ref Rodriguez voted against these ideas.

Moreover, Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla’s opponents, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez, oppose this legislation. Melvoin and Fitzpatrick-Gonez could not, on these questions, break away from their high-profile endorsers like John Deasy, their billionaire benefactors like Eli Broad and the California Charter Schools Association, and their philosophical adherence to Trump/DeVos “anything goes” privatization schemes. If Melvoin and Fitzpatrick-Gonez are elected, they will increase exponentially the attack on our health benefits and on our priorities in the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign.

All of us in UTLA, including you, must triple-down our efforts between now and May 16 by signing up for three precinct-walking shifts to elect Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla so we can build a majority on the School Board, not lose what we have. I know both Steve and Imelda well, I’ve worked with them, and they are stellar candidates — we must elect them.

Let’s follow the lead of David, Lucia, Rananah, Yolanda, and Jeni as they involve their co-workers, share work among their staffs, and find ways to be deeply involved in leading the union program, even in these busy days at school sites and in UTLA organizationally.

If you haven’t yet, sign up to precinct walk for Steve and Imelda, and make it even more fun and meaningful by getting your co-workers to sign up with you on the same day. Remember, voters trust educators—and that trust is deepened even more when the educator is engaging the voter at the door.

Right now, there is no more influential action you can take to protect your health benefits and win a contract for the Schools LA Students Deserve than signing up for precinct walking.

You inspire me. Keep up your great work at schools, and let’s do this!