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UTLA plans protest against Broad at his new downtown museum

Mike Szymanski | September 18, 2015

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UTLA’s call for protest at Broad Museum

A few days after the posh parties with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Orlando Bloom, Ed Ruscha and Frank Gehry to celebrate the opening of the new Broad Museum, the LA Unified teachers union, UTLA, is planning a protest at the museum on Sunday, aimed at its namesake: Eli Broad, one of LA’s leading philanthropists.

More specifically, the union is demonstrating against a plan by several foundations, including his, to create more charter schools in Los Angeles.

“We are protesting Broad’s plan to pull half the students out of public LAUSD schools and put them in unregulated schools that are not accountable to the public,” UTLA said in a press release. “The students left behind would suffer greatly. There simply would not be enough funding to go around.”

Broad has become a major target of teacher unions for his efforts nationwide to reform public schools through charters and an academy that trains executives to run them. The former LA Unified superintendent, John Deasy, was a Broad trainee.

The union also contends that Broad of “secretly funded groups” that tried to defeat Proposition 30, a state tax initiative that has generated millions of new tax dollars for California public schools.

“Broad and his billionaire pals wreaked havoc on public education in New Orleans,” UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement. “His education ‘reform’ there resulted in massive inequities and civil rights violations for students. Segregation was reinforced and special education students were left behind.  We do not intend to stand by and let him do the same thing in Los Angeles.”

One speaker scheduled speaker at the protest, according to the union, is “a parent from New Orleans who knows firsthand how Broad and his billionaire pals can destroy a public school district because they did it in New Orleans.”

Whether Broad and other reformers involved in New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 “wreaked havoc” or “destroyed” the school district is a matter of perspective, according to at least one study.

After the storm, the public school system was effectively dissolved and control of most of the city’s schools was placed into a state agency. Under the new agency, all the teachers were fired — most of them were union members — and management of most schools was turned over to charter organizations. The Broad Academy trained some of the people who were in charge, and most of the union teachers were replaced by young and inexperienced teachers from outside the state, none of whom worked under a union contract.

In his study, Douglas N. Harris of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans argues that while many of the lowest-income and minority students did not return to New Orleans after Katrina for a variety of reasons, academic performance in the city schools rose among those who remained.

Another study found academic performance “has improved significantly — particularly among the schools that were once among Louisiana’s lowest-performing campuses”  but also said “far too many New Orleans charter schools are not yet adequately preparing students for college and careers. There is much work to be done.”

The California Charter School Association joined the protest against the protest with a press release yesterday, calling for Caputo-Pearl to “stop disrespecting parents who want to choose the best school for their children.”

For his part, Caputo-Pearl has challenged Broad to a “public debate on public education . . . . any place, any time — and that includes outside his new museum on September 20.”

The charter group said, “If Caputo-Pearl wants to debate anyone, he should start by debating the parents of the more than 100,000 Los Angeles students who have chosen charter public schools” in LA Unified.

Whether Broad intends to accept Caputo-Pearl’s challenge remains unclear. The Broad Foundation did not respond to messages seeking comment. Nor has the Foundation made any public comment about its charter expansion plan since word of it leaked last month, except to say some of the descriptions about its intent were incorrect. It has made no effort to correct those descriptions.

The UTLA protest is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

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