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No Race to Top for Teachers Union, ‘Travesty,’ Says Galatzan*

Hillel Aron | October 3, 2013

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Superintendent John Deasy, left, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, right

Superintendent John Deasy, left, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, right

The Los Angeles teachers union said today that LA Unified’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant had “so many glaring problems” that the union could not support it.

This was the second straight year the union refused to sign off on the district’s application, which was unanimously approved by the school board. Union participation is a federal requirement for submission.

Tamar Galatzan, an LA Unified Board member, called the union’s decision “a travesty,” adding: “This district is still woefully short of funds,” she said in a statement. “To turn down millions in funding for our neediest and most at-risk students at a time like this is inexcusable. Our mission is to serve students above all else, and this action did not do that.”

Board member Monica Garcia agreed, saying, “Children lose when leadership stands in opposition rather than finding solutions to work together for the benefit of our children and communities.”

A statement from the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, said union officials last month expressed concerns with the district about the grant proposal and said the district “did not collaborate” with union president Warren Fletcher, who was only presented the proposal a day before the deadline.

The union complained that “pages were not numbered in this thick document and appendixes were missing. There was nothing to indicate what, if any, changes had been made.”

The union further questioned what would happen to counselors who would only be funded for two years by a four-year grant. The statement also said portions of money for digital “tablets” and training were “earmarked for an outside vendor and the District failed to provide any information on the vetting process.”

For all those reasons, the statement said, Fletcher found it not in the best interest of district students.

“I hope a day comes soon when the leadership of UTLA supports its teachers and our students by being a partner in bringing much needed resources to LAUSD,” said Superintendent John Deasy in a press release, announcing the demise of the application.

Elise Buik, CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which is leading an effort to involve more teachers and administrators in district spending decisions, said: “Its disappointing to see funding opportunities for students squandered away because of adult politics.  Students lose here, and so do thousands of teachers who want more funds for their classrooms.  It’s a deeply frustrating situation.”

According to LA Unified’s submission, the district was seeking $29.7 million in federal grant money to serve 20,500 students, with three specific goals:

  • All graduating 12th graders are proficient, having completed a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and participated in a career pathway.
  • All 9th grade students earn enough credits to reach 10th grade on-time, thereby ensuring they are on track for high school graduation.
  • All 8th grade students leave middle school at or above grade-level proficiency, so that they are ready to take on the challenges of high school work and not require significant remediation.

A spokesman for the California Federation of Teachers, Fred Glass, said it’s not unusual for local unions to decline participation. “One reason for the refusal,” he told LA School Report, “is that one of the requirements is teacher evaluation based in part on state standardized test schools. That’s a line in the sand for many unions.”

The district’s statement made no mention of evaluation issues.

Glass also said that union’s contend that the value of the grant is often less than the costs of administering it, which is the reason UTLA cited when it declined to join the district’s application last year.

Deasy sent the application in anyway, but it was rejected by the U.S. Department of Education, which said the application was incomplete without UTLA signing off on it.

*Includes UTLA response.

Previous posts: School Board Approves New Application for Race to the Top; LAUSD Applies Without Union Support; Union Unmoved by Hurricane Extension; 

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