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Union leaders, former LAUSD board president attack Broad charter plan

Mike Szymanski | October 14, 2015

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LaborLeadersWhile teachers protested a proposed charter expansion plan outside the LA Unified school board meeting yesterday, union leaders involved with the district and a former board president, spoke out against it inside.

On the street, about 100 teachers rallied against the effort by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that would more than double the number of charter school students in LA Unified over the next eight years. Some protestors wore masks of Broad, former superintendent John Deasy and members of the Walton family (of Walmart), who are also involved in the expansion effort. Some of the teachers sang to “I Will Survive” and chanted “Billionaires can’t teach our kids!”

Meanwhile, at the board meeting inside, a coalition of union leaders stood behind Max Arias, executive director of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, as he stood with Juan Flecha of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), representing principals, Alex Caputo-Pearl of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA); and other labor leaders. Arias gave an impassioned speech against Broad’s “secret charter plan to take public out of public schools.”

Referring to difficulties parents had in Philadelphia when the charter schools took over traditional schools, he said, “Students will have to leave and go far away to go to school, and there will be a loss of arts and music education, a loss of skilled cafeteria workers and fewer adults at every campus.”

With a capacity crowd of more than 150 in the meeting room, Arias challenged the Broad Foundation to change direction. He read the foundation’s education mission statement to help all children and said, “We invite Eli Broad to become part of the solution and join the district and build on the success of the district. Not politicize and privatize it.”

Another speaker, Rusty Hicks of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the group was upset that Broad’s plan “is extreme, our students are not commodities,” adding, “Students deserve better.”

UTLABroadProtestSchoolBoardOn the invitation of board member Scott Schmerelson, former board president Jackie Goldberg addressed the meeting. A former member of the state assembly and the LA City Council, she said, “I came after reading about the attempt of what I see is to privatize and destroy public education.”

Goldberg added, “I was an advocate of school choice from the very beginning, this was not a bad idea. The original goal of charter schools was try to help better approaches to teaching.”

LAUSD has a complex set of charter schools under its control. Affiliated charters are still under the UTLA bargaining agreements, but independent charters are exempt from other district rules, and many of them are non-union. LAUSD has more students in the charter system than any other school district in the country, about 100,000 students.
Goldberg said LAUSD should require the charters to share best practices with other schools. “It’s not supposed to be a race for dollars,” she said.

Goldberg is now part of TEAch, Transparency, Equity and Accountability for Charters, a nonprofit that she said is not anti-charter but is a group educating families about charter schools.

“I think a lot of parents don’t know that a charter school doesn’t have to meet the same strict earthquake safety standard that major hospital and schools have,” Goldberg said. “You are elected by the public. We need accountability, we need transparency,”

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