Games People Play: CTA, the Vergara v. California Case, and Lawyers

Return of the Union Baby Mercenaries!  I especially like the sullen Union Hulk Baby.

Return of the Union Baby Mercenaries! I especially like the sullen Union Hulk Baby.

Tenure, the Video Game, just makes me happy. On some level, this is how I perceive the Teachers’ Union approach to employment rights and negotiations…a type of power game, with various bonuses and so forth along the way. Rarely does it seem like they care too much about the teachers they represent, or the students that the profession serves. I say this with the weight of having been in a room with UTLA’s leadership as they brushed off the concerns of a room full of members who criticized them. Leadership of the Union is as far from the concerns of the modern classroom teacher as can be.

CTA signed on to be an intervening defendant in the Vergara vs. California case, which I have been referring to a great deal. I’m excited to attempt to be supportive in this case, with all the weight and gravitas of a Teacher of the Year, in direct opposition to my own Union. The clear fact is, the case is about student civil rights, not “gaming the system” for employment advantages and work benefits.

The LA Weekly said this recently, in an article:

“Powerful groups with deep pockets — in particular, the California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles unions — have hotly opposed a growing nationwide push to grade teachers.”

That is correct, sir! Keeping score on Teacher effectiveness, and allowing a real method for getting rid of poor teachers is hotly opposed by Unions. I’m not in support of making grades the end all be all, or scores…but certainly, continuing to employ some who are a drain on the system, when many young people hungrily want to be teachers and are hamstrung by outdated employment ideas…that’s crazy.

The Doe vs. Deasy case determined that in accordance with the Stull Act, on the books since the late sixties, standardized test scores must be used to evaluate teachers, as a portion of their eval. When UTLA and CTA say that Bloomberg, Eli Broad, and myself are bullying outsiders with deep pockets and special interests…bear in mind that UTLA and CTA have had a contract that DISREGARDS state law since the 1970’s. That right there is the definition of deep pocketed, powerful special interest lobbyists, True Believers.

When asking, “how did California’s educational system get so wrong?” it is logical to look at the sheer lack of accountability to true teaching standards, and true educational achievement, there has been. Vergara vs. California is about going after the Ed Code statutes that allow that to happen.

Don’t take it from me. An actual Union Mercenary was referenced in the LA Weekly as such:

“On the heels of Doe v. Deasy, California teachers unions face an even tougher lawsuit from parents and students. One union lawyer calls it “Doe v. Deasy on steroids.”

As I have been putting forth, it takes the game away from Union topics, and makes it about student rights and black letter law, which is how Doe vs. Deasy operated. No issues of contracts, only issues of civil rights for young people.

Here’s some more goodness in this LA Weekly article:

“If the second lawsuit, filed by Students Matter against LAUSD and Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in San Jose, succeeds, California’s nearly ironclad teacher-protection laws could crumble.

Students Matter is represented by superstar attorneys Theodore Boutrous and Theodore B. Olson, the pair who successfully argued to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California, was unconstitutional. (Olson, considered a top constitutional attorney, also won representing George W. Bush at the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.)

“We’re not proposing some detailed thing,” Boutrous says. “We just need to clear the books of these laws, which together are violating the constitutional rights of students.”

Students Matter, bankrolled by Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur David Welch, co-founder of Infinera, has sued on behalf of eight named children and their parents — Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara, Clara Grace Campbell, Kate Elliott, Herschel Liss, Julia Macia, Daniella Martinez and Raylene Monterroza. All but three are located within LAUSD.

The parents and students allege that California’s five job-protection laws for teachers are unconstitutional.”

I’m pretty impressed that Olson is involved, as well as his big, scary law firm. I have been in talks to get my team of teachers to testify, and support the case in the press, and hit an odd stonewall today. I was informed that the legal team “does not have the bandwidth for a sit down meeting to talk to supporters.” First off, that was a douche move, and I’m just putting it out. If you want my team and I to testify, at some point a lawyer is going to need to sit down for a face to face. Second…”bandwidth”? Has this become the word used by Suits now to mean they think they are overworked? It has to be, since a face to face meeting needs no internet.

I was informed this by the above mentioned Students Matter, the organization that brought the suit to court, and ultimately wants teacher support against the intervening defendant, CTA. Sadly, no matter how much of a superstar the legal team is (and color me impressed, By The Way) I can’t possibly get a group of teachers to fight their OWN UNION in court without at least a sit down.

Again, from the LA Weekly:

“The five laws that in effect protect chronically ineffective teachers against firing are the “permanent employment statute” — lifelong tenure after 18 months; the “written charges statute”; the “correct and cure statute”; the “dismissal hearing statute”; and the “last in first out statute.”

These statutes make it nearly impossible to fire a teacher who fights it. For example, according to L.A. Weekly’s 2010 article “Dance of the Lemons,” teacher Roque Burio got five “below-standard” evaluations, but years of retraining failed. LAUSD finally paid Burio $50,000 to leave quietly.”

I’m on board with getting rid of those statutes. I expressed how, in fact, I could possibly benefit from those statutes, given my employment status (i.e. I have seniority, and I have tenure, and it is possible for anyone to have a bad stat year) and still wanted to represent the case in court. No sit down meeting. Not policy.

This is troubling. I don’t like the idea that I can’t necessarily trust the legal team that is fighting for my students, but will be expected to work with them down the line. Possibly at the eleventh hour, fifty ninth minute. CTA came to the case late, but is aggressively mobilizing its media machine, the same media machine that influences School Board Elections and mobilizes for pro Education taxes.

“Nobody knows how many “lemon teachers” exist in the huge, 45,000-person LAUSD teacher force. But Students Matter believes 5 percent of California teachers are “grossly ineffective” — so bad that retraining can’t help them.

In LAUSD, that would translate to 1,600 grossly ineffective teachers.”

Let’s work that out, people. It costs, budgetarily, including benefits and so forth, $80,000 to hire a teacher. Multiply that by 1600. That comes out to $128,000,000…and it only cost $30,000,000 to get every kid and every teacher at 47 schools an iPad. That’s over 4 times the amount needed for the iPads, people. We are only talking about grossly ineffective teachers…a small number.

I point to Henry Clay Middle School. A grossly ineffective school, with a staff that was not achieving. The school was reorganized, and taken over by Green Dot Charter, which broke it up into two schools, and restaffed it entirely. Doing that alone…getting new, more effective teachers, made one of the schools go up by 101 API points. That kind of gain is beyond impressive. The other school went up more points than in the entirety of Clay’s prior decade.

The point? Replace the ineffective with the effective, the unmotivated with the motivated, and we are providing real opportunity for young people. Young people who don’t have access to other educational outlets. It even saves money.

The legal team of Boutros, Olson and Lipshutz are betting they can protect kids from failing educators. It would probably be a benefit to have a few educators on their side in that fight, because I know more than a few that think like me…that putting crummy teachers in classrooms, for the same spending, is very similar to not providing equal funding or assets to schools…which is unconstitutional in California.

But you would need to talk to us.

CTA would be happy to talk to us, as UTLA would. In fact, they have to talk to us, we pay dues. However, they would much rather play political games, do fancy negotiations and so forth than listen to the real outcry for change from their changing constituency. Hence, the artwork above. A bunch of kids with a toy, that want to take turns at it…that’s how the Union operates. Especially the leadership, who sadly, I have to give coins to, so they can play the game.

I was more bummed that the legal team seemed to be an indifferent, powerful force like yesterday’s dragon. I EXPECT the Union to be a bunch of Baby Mercenaries, Hulks, and Darths. I have fifteen years of experience with that, and the lack of concern for the schools my students deserve.

Next Issue: No More Legal/Union Stuff! Instead…Age of Ultron: the Epitaph!

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