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Insurgents Aim for Union Takeover

Hillel Aron | November 9, 2012



Jordan Henry (with former school board member and former city councilmember Jackie Goldberg in the background)

Today’s deadline for LAUSD teachers to nominate themselves for UTLA’s House of Representatives raises two key questions:

The immediate question is will there be enough nominees to require an actual election. In the last few cycles, the numbers have been so few that self-nomination was tantamount to election.

The underlying question is whether the House of Representatives will feature younger, more diverse viewpoints than in the past, and potentially create a shift in UTLA priorities.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” says Jordan Henry, a Santee High School teacher and leader of a splinter group called NewTLA who has been urging teachers to put their names in the ring. “It was very easy, two years ago, to count and keep track of names. At this point, it’s impossible.”

Unbeknownst to most of the public and many teachers, the House of Representatives is the deliberative body that decides UTLA’s official stance on everything from teacher evaluations to which municipal candidates get endorsed.

The 350-member body has been described by some members as the “house of crazies” or “the house of reprehensibles.” Henry, who is currently a member, says “it’s kind of like a staff meeting run amock – it’s hectic.”

But it’s also somewhat conservative and homogenous in terms of policy views. “At schools, there are a diverse set of opinions out there” on things like teacher evaluations and school choice, says Henry. “Then you get to the House of Reps, and there’s far less diversity.”

Henry’s goal is to change that by getting more “reform-minded” teachers involved. He’s fond of asking, “Is UTLA averse to reform? Or are reform-minded teachers averse to UTLA?”

During the last cycle, two years ago, Henry and NewTLA got about 90 teachers into the House. This year, the goal is 180 – a majority — and Henry predicts that enough candidates will self-nominate to force an election.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out Tuesday (according to UTLA’s website), which should make for a rough weekend for UTLA Secretary David Lyell.

“There’s been a fair amount of interest in the election,” says Lyell. “People are excited to get involved.”

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