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Teacher Talks: What Happens If They Can’t Agree?

Hillel Aron | November 28, 2012

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The deadline set by Judge Chalfant for LAUSD and UTLA to agree on a teacher evaluation system that satisfies the requirements of the Stull Act is December 4 — less than a week away.

Neither side is saying how the negotiations are going – other than, well, “they’re going.” That sounds good, but the district and the union haven’t been getting along lately on things like the Race to the Top application, and LAUSD recently called for mediation because there had been an impasse in negotiations.

So what happens if the negotiations bog down and the sides can’t come to an agreement within the judge’s timeline? We asked a couple of experts to weigh in and they came up with three possible scenarios: a fine or other finding against the district, permission to implement a new plan unilaterally without the union’s approval, or the use of some sort of outside third party to handle things.

Last year, seven anonymous parents sued LAUSD over non-enforcement of the Stull Act, a 1971 law that says teacher evaluations must include some measure of pupil progress (See: Outing the Lemon Teachers at LAUSD).

If the two sides can’t agree on a plan by December 4th, plaintiffs’ attorney Scott Witlin says the judge could let the district develop an evaluation system unilaterally.

“It would be within his powers to do it,” says Witlin.

That’s exactly what LAUSD lawyer David Holmquist was saying in a recent LA School Report interview: “If we need to go through fact-finding and, unfortunately, if we have to unilaterally impose [a new evaluation process] in order to comply with the judge’s order, then so be it.”

Not surprisingly, the union doesn’t want things to go that way. “UTLA continues to reject individual teacher-level VAM [value-added measure] scores,” reads a short piece in the November issue of UTLA’s newspaper. “Talks lately have included the potential use of a schoolwide AGT score in place of an individual AGT score.”

Or, alternately, the judge “could hold the district in contempt,” says Witlin. “He could fine the district.”

Political science professor David Menefee-Libey of Pomona College says that there’s a third possibility: the judge could appoint a third party to design an evaluation system.

“If a court tells a governmental body to do something and they defy the court, there comes a point where the only remedy left to the court may be to establish a parallel governing body,” he says.

As an example, Menefee-Libey cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to  health care inside the California prison system in the hands of a receivership.

Previous posts: Top District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral ActionMediator Named in Deadlock Over Teacher EvaluationsUTLA Calls Mediation Request “Premature”Concerns About Teacher TalksLAUSD-UTLA Headed to Mediation

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