UTLA, LAUSD … Hard to Tell Them Apart

EDUCATION POLITICS-Every week for the last five years I have been contacted by what seems to be a never ending parade of targeted senior teachers. These are the professionals that are at the top of the salary scale who make up 93% of teachers being charged and subsequently removed from their careers at LAUSD.

I hear minor variations to the same story: they are facing fabricated morals charges or inflammatory allegations of being racists or for doing something as mundane as teaching about race in the context of the Civil Rights movement in a Social Studies class. 

They all describe open collusion on the part of UTLA -- from chapter chairs on up -- with LAUSD against them in a process that presumes them guilty. And UTLA does nothing to come to their aid. The only teachers UTLA has ever defended are those within the UTLA "power" structure. Just ask Alex Caputo Pearl who was targeted when he was at Crenshaw High School and very atypically had the union successfully come to his defense. 

All these teachers describe how they have been "unfairly targeted by an administrator,” a process through which the LAUSD builds a file of fabricated "evidence" -- charges that seek to fire or force into early retirement teachers at the top of the scale. This ends up saving the LAUSD approximately $60,000 in just the first year after they get rid of such a teacher. It’s worth noting that LAUSD makes no attempt to hide how disingenuous this process is: the files of many targeted teachers have literally the same paragraphs in them, cut and pasted from a script. I even have a copy of the script that was mistakenly put into some correspondence with a targeted teacher. These teachers who end up without jobs or benefits are unable to engage attorneys to defend themselves in the long and purposefully protracted process of fighting back. Maybe that's why they joined a union in the first place. 

Many of these displaced teachers have been removed without taking account of their actual hiring date seniority. Teachers with emergency credentials in many cases are left in place. The goal of LAUSD seems clear: once displaced, it becomes impossible for a targeted teacher to secure a fixed position since LAUSD administrators are told not to give available spots to them. After three years, these teachers can be fired as at-will employees and lose their tenure. 

What follows is a typical email I received that illustrates many of the factors that lead to teachers losing their positions. While no one teacher can stand up against these criminals, it occurs to me that a concerned and well-organized action brought and paid for by the thousands of teachers who have already lost their careers might finally bring this conspiracy into the public's awareness. Get in touch if you are interested in doing something. 

"I have been teaching for 20 years now. I am at a school where I am being unfairly targeted by an administrator. The job is hard enough but when you have administrators writing you up for teaching kids the difference between racism, prejudice, and stereotypes it can be impossible. When it comes to UTLA I am starting to see why some teachers are frustrated. Some chapter chairs are in bed with the administration and I wish there would be more push back from the union. Teachers are afraid to talk to each other or to speak. It's really sad to see. The raise was nice but a lot of the teacher harassment is still going on, especially for teachers who are brave enough to speak out. Finally there are also teachers out there who are willing to snitch on their own colleagues for brownie points with their administrators. 

“I am also a displaced teacher. I am wondering if other displaced teachers are getting the same treatment from their administrators at other schools. Part of the bargaining agreement UTLA had with LAUSD was to place the displaced teachers at schools. I believe that displaced teachers may be labeled as being not effective in the classroom. That is not the case. I'm just wondering if displaced teachers have been unfairly targeted this year since this is the first year of the agreement."


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.