What happens when you hire an out-of-touch millionaire to run public schools
UTLA released Austin Beutner’s calendar, exposing frequent meetings in exclusive restaurants and open access for privatizers. He has said that unregulated charter growth is a “distraction”—yet in his first four months as superintendent, he made time to meet with numerous wealthy privatizers and prominent charter promoters and has taken no action to stop the $600 million that charters drain from neighborhood schools each year. UTLA released the calendars while our bargaining team and the district met with state mediators. Mediation is over and now we proceed to fact-finding. Read our article about fact-finding here
Some key deadlocked bargaining proposals:
- Class Size Matters. LAUSD gave no proposals to reduce class size. LAUSD has some of the highest class sizes in the nation, yet refuses to eliminate section 1.5 of the contract, which allows the district to ignore class size caps.
- Improve School Safety. With a student-to-counselor ratio of 945:1 in California and student-to-nurse ratio of 1,224:1, LAUSD refuses to add more school nurses, counselors, social workers, librarians and other staff; rejects greater educator input on school safety plans.
- Fund Our Schools. LAUSD gave no proposals to address funding issues. California is the richest state in the nation, yet ranks 43 out of 50 in per-pupil funding.
- Support Community Schools. LAUSD gave no proposals to fund Community Schools. Community schools meet the needs in the surrounding community, including wrap-around services, broadened curriculum and parent engagement.
- Less Testing & More Teaching. LAUSD gave no proposals to address overtesting. Our kids are being overtested. Their teachers should have more discretion over what and when standardized assessments are given.
- End the Privatization Drain. LAUSD gave no proposals for reasonable charter accountability and co-location measures. LAUSD refuses to address the $590 million lost to the unchecked expansion of charter schools each year.
UTLA members overwhelmingly authorize strike
August 31st, 2018
98% of ballots marked YES to strike
In a significant show of strength and unity, 98% of voting UTLA members said yes to authorize a strike, should one become necessary. During the week-long vote at school-sites, more than 82% of members cast ballots. Because of this historic turnout, a small number of ballots are still being counted tonight.
The results were a sharp rebuke to Austin Beutner and his austerity agenda to ultimately cut pay, healthcare, pensions, staffing, and student services, starving schools of resources and opening the door to dismantling the district. The huge turnout shows that educators in LA know what’s on the line and are ready to take action, connecting with the national teacher rebellions to stand up for public education.
While LAUSD would like to constrict contract talks to pay and a few narrow issues, educators have been fighting for a righteous set of proposals that are urgently needed for the district to survive and thrive, including lower class sizes, fair pay, less testing and more teaching, accountability for charter operators and co-locations, respect for early and adult educators, and more nurses, counselors, and librarians to support our students. The force behind our vote is a clear signal to Beutner that he should stop the delay tactics, end his attempts to reach a backroom deal, and agree to enter mediation immediately.
The vote does not mean we are going on strike immediately. The results authorize the UTLA Board of Directors to call for a strike if LAUSD does not show good faith in mediation and offer a fair contract that respects educators, our students, and our communities.
FACT: LAUSD hoards money while claiming to be broke.
One example of LAUSD hoarding money: LAUSD systematically over-budgets for books and supplies, spending only a fraction of what it says it will. For the 2017-18 school year, LAUSD claimed it would spend $774 million on books and supplies (total of restricted and unrestricted funds), but actually spent only $358 million—that's a difference of more than $416 million. Last year, LAUSD over-budgeted by nearly 54% for textbooks and supplies—far more than other large urban school districts in the state.
Hoarding money is how the district justifies rejecting UTLA's contract proposals and pushing an austerity agenda to increase class sizes and cut pay, healthcare, pensions, staffing, and student services.
Crushing the district disinformation campaign
August 24th, 2018
CLAIM: UTLA members have been offered a 6% raise.
FACT: The current offer on the table is 2% ongoing with a 2% one-time bonus.
CLAIM: Other LAUSD employees have been given a 6% raise.
FACT: The so-called 6% raise otherLAUSD employees agreed to is NOT 6%. It's a 3% ongoing salary increase, with a 3% one-time "wage supplement" that only continues if the district says it has enough money next year.
CLAIM: LAUSD has "only" $700 million in unrestricted reserves.
FACT: LAUSD has more than $1.7 billion in unrestricted reserves.
Austin Beutner went on KNBC last weekend and said that LAUSD had only $700 million "in the bank"—not more than $1.7 billion. Here's the budget doc that confirms the unrestricted ending balance ("unrestricted reserves") for 2018-19. It's time to use that money for our students.
CLAIM: Reserves are not large enough to improve learning and working conditions.
FACT: As a percentage of the budget, LAUSD's reserves far outpace those of other large urban school districts in the state and could go a long way toward improving learning conditions for students and working conditions for educators.
Beutner pushes austerity agenda
Austin Beutner says there’s no money to lower class size and hire more counselors, psychologists, nurses, and teacher librarians, but he refuses to use the $1.7 billion reserve and he refuses to discuss the unregulated corporate charter growth that drains $550 million a year from schools.
LINK Facebook video below
Beutner pushes austerity agenda
August 17, 2018
On Wednesday, Superintendent Austin Beutner threatened cuts to healthcare, pay, pensions, and student services at an offsite “retreat." Here are quotes from that retreat on his austerity agenda:
“The only type of cap that will solve the healthcare costs continuing to rise is a hard cap.”
—LAUSD CFO Scott Price
A hard cap would mean lower medical coverage and/or big monthly premium payments by employees. The push for a hard cap aligns with the Beutner report from June that says LAUSD employee healthcare costs 44% too much.
“Every new employee we hire is adding to the problem.”
—School Board member Nick Melvoin
This is how you dismantle a school district—by cutting instead of investing in our students’ learning environment through lowering class size and hiring the nurses, counselors, teacher librarians, and psychologists students need to succeed.
“At least not directly….”
—Melvoin in response to a comment by board member George McKenna
that pensions were not under the district’s control
Melvoin’s comments imply that decreasing pension cost is something the district should take on in Sacramento. Melvoin won't advocate for charter regulations or school district power to deny charter growth at the state level, but he's already talking about going after pensions. This aligns with the Beutner report that says employee pensions are a “burden” and could be phased out for a hybrid system with a “less-generous pension.”
CHANGES TO WORKDAY
The “8 hour day” teachers work should be used “more efficiently.”
—Beutner’s high-priced consultants
This links with the Beutner report that says 90 minutes should be added to the workday with no additional pay—which is essentially an hourly pay cut. Neither Beutner nor his consultants mentioned instructional time lost to testing, and there was no acknowledgment that high class sizes and workloads limit how much teachers can engage with their students and their colleagues.
At the retreat, CFO Scott Price reiterated LAUSD’s claim that there are only three big drivers to LAUSD’s so-called structural deficit, all of them caused by employees: healthcare, pensions, and other basic employee costs. The pro-privatization school board is ignoring special education underfunding ($1 billion each year), the unregulated growth of charter schools ($600 million each year), and California’s immoral lack of funding for schools (43rd in the nation in per-pupil funding) to serve their PR campaign that greedy teachers are to blame for the district’s financial problems.
In a letter that Beutner leaked to the media this week, he said that LAUSD was too busy with the new school year to meet with a mediator to try to reach a bargaining agreement—yet Beutner was able to spent eight hours at this retreat going after our healthcare and our pensions.
LINK: Read the Letter from UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and UTLA Bargaining Chair Arlene Inouye calling out Beutner for his refusal to go to mediation and unwillingness to bargain.
LINK: Read UTLA’s debunking of the research behind Beutner's austerity agenda.
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Los Angeles is ground zero for a well-funded, coordinated national attack on public education. Our public schools are being defunded and dubbed failures by those charged with protecting them, whether it's Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos or Austin Beutner and Nick Melvoin.THE PRIVATIZER ACTION AGENDA
They cannot put "kids first" when they put public schools last. Similar to the leaked Eli Broad memo revealing the strategy to push 50% of LAUSD students into corporate charter schools.
If their privatization agenda was written in one document, it would look like this:
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False Choices, Hidden Agendas
Unmasking the LAUSD's 'Hard Choices' ERS report
On June 5, 2018, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner released his report based on an analysis by ERS, a paid consulting firm he hired. The report uses flawed methodology and incorrect data to justify conclusions targeting educators and students, and claims educators are overpaid by 17% and healthcare costs 44% too much.
UNITED, WE ACT NOW
Throughout the last year of bargaining with LAUSD, we have fought to create a better future for our students. Instead, LAUSD refuses to bargain issues that would give our schools a fighting chance. LAUSD has even rejected improvements with little or no costs, including those to address declining enrollment. It is clear this is a part of the privatization agenda to starve our schools, rather than reinvest in them. We must ACT NOW.
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