Another Candidate Emerges to Challenge for UTLA Presidency
Hillel Aron | October 1, 2013
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The election campaign for president of the teachers union, UTLA, has expanded with a third candidate entering the race, joining the incumbent, Warren Fletcher, and a previously-announced challenger, Alex Caputo-Pearl, a member of the Progressive Educators for Action caucus within the union.
The new candidate, David Garcia, is a former Navy corpsman and veteran of the first Gulf War who was a high school art teacher until he was laid off in 2010 because of budget cuts.
Now a substitute teacher, Garcia has begun sending emailing flyers with a 14-point campaign plank, which includes promises to lower union dues, to make all officer and board meetings open to the public and to prohibit consecutive terms for UTLA officers.
He’s also pledging to do the job for only $10 an hour, which calculates to about $18,200 a year, about a fifth of Fletcher’s annual salary.
As a frequent speaker at school board meetings, wearing black wraparound sunglasses, Garcia has been deeply critical of LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy. And now he’s taking shots at his campaign opponents.
“Everyone knows that LAUSD is wanting to privatize the school district,” Garcia told LA School Report. “That’s fine, it’s phenomenon that’s going nationwide. Everyone wants to vilify LAUSD, but it takes two to tango. The union hasn’t been doing a good job defending our teachers.”
As for Fletcher, the incumbent: “I think that he’s incompetent,” Garcia said. “He doesn’t return your calls, he doesn’t return your emails. He’s evasive. A real leader would try to bring in the community into the forum. That’s something that Warren Fletcher has avoided at all costs.”
As a parent of four children in the school district, Garcia says he supports what he calls “legitimate reform.” Having taught for years in South LA, he says the district needs to focus more on security for many schools, and he favors randomly searching students for weapons and contraband. He also thinks all teachers should be subject to random drug testing, much like army personnel.
“That would raise the consciousness of the public, convince people that these guys are professionals,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, he’s adamantly opposed to the kinds of reforms put forward by Deasy, such as using test scores as part of teacher evaluations and switching the curriculum to the new Common Core standards.
“No Child Left Behind was a failure, Common Core will no doubt be a failure,” he said. “It just keeps going and going.”
Garcia remains a decided underdog in the election, which will be held in February. Both Fletcher and Caputo-Pearl have bases of support and are expected to raise and spend tens of thousands of dollars. Garcia calls this practice “buying yourself a position of power in the union.”
Money notwithstanding, Garcia does claim to have a secret weapon – an endorsement from renown linguistics professor and liberal activist Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky did not respond to a message seeking confirmation of his endorsement.
But Garcia provided an email from Chomsky, who wrote after reading Garcia’s 14-point plank: “I’m always somewhat reluctant to endorse anyone when I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the circumstances. But this seems a clear enough case so that I’ll overcome the hesitations. Glad to be listed as an endorser.”
Previous posts: UTLA Factions Lining Up to Oust Fletcher as President; ‘Political Season’ Starting with UTLA Leadership Conference; Union President Likely Faces 2014 Challengers; Union President Volunteers for Pay Cut