In Partnership with 74

LA Unified board has pro-bono work, food on its meeting plate

Vanessa Romo | February 9, 2015

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after school supper program LAUSD* UPDATED

Why put off until tomorrow . . .well, you get the idea.

In the case of the LA Unified school board, the answer is that sometimes you don’t have the votes. Which is exactly what happened last month on a resolution to allow district lawyers to work pro-bono on student deportation cases through a program called AYUDA.

What initially seemed like a slam dunk, do-gooder proposal, was quickly derailed by questions regarding exactly how the volunteer program would work. So rather than take a vote, the board put it off to tomorrow’s monthly meeting. But it’s unclear if the resolution has picked up any support from resistant board members in the intervening weeks.

The LA Times Editorial board weighed in on the issue late last week, advising the board to take a hard pass, writing, “To set itself up as a de facto immigration legal service constitutes a troubling level of mission creep…Better for L.A. Unified to let lawyers decide what kind of pro bono work they want to do instead of making value decisions about which ones it will allow.”

Board member Steve Zimmer and President Richard Vladovic are bringing back a food contract they want to see suspended because they say the company is not in compliance with the state’s Fair Labor Practices for agricultural vendors.

They contend in their resolution that Gerawan Farming, one of the country’s largest suppliers of peaches, plums and other fruit, is under consideration for new contacts but according to lawyers for the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board it has cheated employees of “many millions of dollars they are owed” and refused to sign a new union contract issued by the ALRB.

Dan Gerawan told LA School Report today that the district has portrayed the situation incorrectly. He said his company currently has no contracts with LA Unified nor is seeking any. He also said his company has not been found to have violated any rules or regulations regarding its relationship with workers and the district’s resolution is being driven by the United Farm Workers, a union he insisted his employees do not want.

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez and a group of Gerawan farm workers are planning a march from the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex at 10 a.m. to LA Unified headquarters to raise awareness of Gerawan’s refusal to sign the labor contract.

Eight charter school approvals are up before the board, and all but one are in districts with a board member facing reelection. Our Community School in Chatsworth is within Tamar Galatzan‘s District 3. She is facing five challengers in her race.

Another six are in Bennett Kayser’s Board District 5, which is becoming the most tense race of the election, embroiled in the pro-union versus reformers battle. And what makes the charter petitions more interesting is that they are renewal and expansion applications for PUC Charter Schools, which were founded by one of Kayser’s opponents, Ref Rodriguez. Kayser typically votes against any charter renewal request.

To preclude any appearance of conflict-of-interest, Kayser said today he would recuse himself from voting on any charter renewals involving the PUC schools.

The final charter application is for a new elementary school campus, Valor Academy in Panorama City, which is located in Monica Ratliff‘s District 6.

Finally, in case you are looking at your calendar thinking, sure there’s Ground Hog Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, and the entire month is Black History month, but what else can make the shortest month of the year really special?

Grab your pencils! The board is (probably) officially recognizing Feb. 13 as No One Eats Alone Day.


* Adds comments from Gerawan, accusing the district of mischaracterizing the company. Also, clarifies location of charters seeking renewals and adds statement from Kayser about recusing himself from charter votes.

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