Dec 26, 2012
In the recent HOR elections, there are three Gates backed groups with teachers elected into House Of Representatives coming into our Union, United Teachers Of Los Angeles in January. They were backed with Gates’ money, and this is of concern to current Union members, who fear chnage may mean destruction from factions within. “Educators for Excellence”, “Teach Plus”, both of which are local arms of national groups, and “Teachers for A New Unionism” which is headed by Fairfax High teacher Mike Stryer. Stryer had run but lost in the race for School Board four years ago. All three groups have members coming into UTLA.
Normally, it is very easy to get into HOR. All one does is fill out a self nomination form. There are 32 electoral districts and usually, all get in and sometimes there are even more open seats which various committees or Areas can elect more HOR members. In the past, I got in by filling out the self-nomination form. I also got in by being elected through the Substitute Committee.
The HOR, House Of Repersentatives is the decision making body of teachers who vote on motions, selects candidates for elections as the up-coming School Board elections, votes on policy items, and issues on the agenda which affect Los Angeles Unified School District teachers.
This year’s elections had the most contested seats in a long time. Twenty-two electoral districts of the 32 had contested seats, and elections had to be held. There were 209 openings out of 396 running and 100 are newly elected teachers who have not been HOR members before.
Of these newly elected 100 teachers, some were encouraged to run by the three groups backed by Gates’ money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There has been talk of “union busting”. There has been talk of a conflict of interest as these groups also have been favored by Superintendent John Deasy, who was connected with the Gates Foundation.
What the groups have in common is to change the tenor of the Union and to have an influence on policy making that could do away with teacher seniority, encourage the VAM or Value Added Measure to evaluate a teacher’s performance based on test scores.
Those teachers, who were encouraged to run by Teach Plus and the others would like to have lay offs based on teacher effectiveness and not by seniority and to have test scores incorporated into teacher evaluations. They see a Union that has argued and not been as effective as their leaders want it to be and has blocked these issues.
The question I have is have these newly elected teachers been around long enough to know the workings of the HOR and the validity of the issues. Will they be independent thinkers or sheep who follow their backer’s mandate?
Change is feared, but change will come about. Let us hope it will be a change for the better. Will there be enough newly elected HOR members who have been backed by the Gates Foundation to bring about the changes their parent organizations want? I am concerned about this. Will the rest of the HOR members be able to block those actions they feel will not benefit the majority of teachers? At present, the exact number of those from the three groups is not known. Will there be Union busting from within as feared? Will contentious meetings get more contentious?
During the past year, as an elected HOR member, I have seen all too many a meeting disrupted by arguing and ended by the “call for a quorum”. It could get worse.
I am proud to have been elected by my peers in both our Substitute Committee and by my electoral district and will do my best to represent what I feel is right for teachers and substitute teachers. I cannot end this article without a statement about those educators in Newtown, Connecticut.
I am so very proud and moved by these exemplary heroes and devstated they lost their lives. They showed that teaching is definitely not a 9-5 job and is not just about test scores or evaluations. They gave their lives to save their students and put their students first. They demonstrated with the cost of their lives, that they loved being teachers, and they loved their students. Their students came first. And, also the Principal, who charged the crazed attacker who had an assault rifle, showed when it comes to the nitty gritty, it is not about seniority based layoffs or test scores. It is about teaching the children and protecting them. This is what we all need to focus on rather than get torn apart by issues.
What brought all of us into this world of education? I pray as 2012 ends and we approach 2013, we do not lose sight of that. I pray we focus on these fallen heroes, we focus on the common denominators of what unites us rather than what separates us. I pray, we all work together harmoniously in HOR to make for a stronger more “unionized” force to work with LAUSD to better education for the students and the teachers. I pray we make the teaching environment not just a safe haven for the children, but also a safe haven for all educators. Let’s have a “change that is good” for all concerned.
In memory of educators:
Victoria Soto, 27 teacher
Rachel D’ Avino, 29, Behavioral Therapist
Dawn Hochsprung, 47 Principal
Ann Marie Murphy, 52, teacher
Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30 permanent substitute teacher
Mary Sherlach, 52, School Psychologist
and their 20 young students
Career Substitute Teacher
Central Calling Area Chapter Chair
HOR voting member