State Audit Shows Alliance Charter Schools Spent Nearly $1M plus $2.2M in Legal Fees on Anti-Union Campaign

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Above: In November 2015, parents hold a news conference raising concerns about amount of money being spent by Alliance-College Ready charter management to fight anti-union organizing by its own teachers.

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State Audit Shows Alliance Charter Schools Spent Nearly $1 Mil + $2.2 Mil in Legal Fees on Anti-Union Campaign; Failed to Comply with Federal Law on Sharing Parent and Student Information 

Parents and Teachers Say Money Should Be Spent on Students, Not on Fighting Teachers Court Order to End Harassment of Teachers Continues

 

SACRAMENTO– A report by the California State Auditor, released today, shows that Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has already spent $917,759 with an additional $2.2 million in “pro bono” legal fees  – not including costs for this year – on an anti-union propaganda campaign since teachers and counselors began organizing a union at the 28-school chain in March 2015.


The report also revealed that Alliance did not annually notify parents and students about their privacy right under federal law to not have their private information shared with third-party entities like the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). Alliance turned over alumni information to CCSA in an effort to enlist parents against teachers’ efforts to organize a union. 


According to the Auditor’s report, Alliance has raised a $1.7 million war chest from private donors to fight its own teachers and counselors.


Teachers and parents at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest charter school operator in Los Angeles with 12,500 students, denounced the actions by the charter’s board and management. “Charter schools are substantially funded by public taxpayer dollars with additional private contributions,” said Alisha Mernick, teacher at Alliance Gertz Ressler High School. “Whether public or private, that money should be used in our classrooms, helping students learn. I’m offended that my employer solicited money for a propaganda campaign to misinform, manipulate, and silence teaching professionals who are organizing a union to improve the quality of our schools.”


“In November 2015, a group of parents asked Alliance CEO Dan Katzir for a detailed report of the money that Alliance charter company was spending to fight their own teachers. We never got a response. It is a shame that the State of California had to conduct an audit to get answers we requested 18 months ago. Whether public money or money donated privately, money spent fighting teachers could have been better spent in our kids’ classroom for textbooks, lab and sports equipment,” said Maria Esparza, an Alliance Bloomfield High School parent. 


“While educators across Los Angeles and California are standing together to improve funding for public education, Alliance is spending resources to run a campaign against their own teachers and counselors,” said United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Raising funds for a war chest to fight your own employees is just plain wrong. Operators of publicly funded schools should be working to see that every available dollar is spent to further quality education for students.”


Alliance’s board and managers have responded to a union organizing campaign by teachers and staff with a campaign of unlawful coercion, including illegal surveillance, threats by an administrator to eliminate teacher positions if they unionize, threats of trespassing charges and arrest against a teacher distributing union literature during non-work time, interference with union meetings, blocking of emails and illegal discipline against a union supporter.  

The law firms that contributed “pro bono” legal services to Alliance Charter Schools are not identified in the California State Auditor’s report. Attorneys representing the Alliance, however, are not promoting the “public good,” but rather defending a company that has been found  – repeatedly – to be violating educators’ rights.
 

  • In late October 2015, Judge James C. Chalfant of Los Angeles Superior Court granted PERB’s motion for a temporary restraining order, followed by an injunction in December 2015. Judge Chalfant ordered the charter school chain to stop interfering with educators’ rights. 

 

  • In June 2016, a PERB administrative law judge of the California Public Employment Relations Board found that Alliance executives had violated CA labor law by denying access to union organizers to schools during non-work time to discuss educators’ rights, blocking pro-union email updates and threatening a pro-union teacher by an administrator.

 

  • In December 2016, California PERB issued a new unfair practice complaint, in response to Alliance’s failure to renew the teaching contract of a union supporter and continued coercive anti-union communications.

 

  • In March 2017, California PERB issued a new unfair practice complaint in response to Alliance leaders interfering with a teacher distributing union leaflets during non-work time including threats of arrest for trespassing, an Alliance administrator threatening to cut eight teacher jobs at his school if they unionize, surveillance of union activities and refusal to meet and confer with pro-union educators on workplace conditions. 

 
“All we want is a fair, neutral process so we can make up our own minds about forming a union without our employer interfering, and violating our rights under the law,” said Alliance teacher Alisha Mernick. “When your employer is raising and spending millions of dollars to try to prevent you from having a union rather than working with teachers through collective bargaining to improve our students’ education – that’s a pretty good sign you need a union.”

Contact: Roger Kerson at roger.kerson@gmail.com (734)6450535