L.A. Public Schools Gain New Autonomy
article by California Teaching | December 02, 2011
Overhauling a 2-year old labor agreement that allowed charter operators to take over low-performing schools, the Los Angeles Unified District (LAUSD) and its teachers union (UTLA) have reached a new agreement. Under this new agreement, local schools now have more autonomy over hiring, curriculum and working conditions.
“This agreement is a necessary corrective,” United Teachers President Warren Fletcher said to The Los Angeles Times. “There has been a lot of focus on out-of-district resources and answers. This is the beginning of moving back to some semblance of balance.”
Teams of educators and parents in the most under-performing schools will form a 3-year transformation plan. According to a press release, the new agreement provides the following:
• Stability to schools by imposing a 3-year moratorium on giveaways of either new or existing schools to outside charter school operators.
• Ongoing support for high-needs schools via intervention teams from the district and teachers unions to service schools with professional development and other school-based assistance provided by displaced teachers.
• Local control and school site decision-making options allowing schools to waive selected policies and contract provisions.
“The agreement we are bringing forward is about stabilization,” Fletcher said to NBCLA. “It's about creating space for schools, faculties, families and students to be able to have a safe zone to improve themselves with supports.”
Under the new plan, Superintendent John Deasy explained that local public schools could have the same freedoms that independently operated charter schools have. This is significant as over 10 percent of children are enrolled in charter schools in LAUSD.
While this may prove good for public schools, it has some charter school operators worried that they will not be able to compete. Under the previous plan known as Public School Choice implemented in 2009, charter schools and other organizations were able to compete to gain control over the lowest-achieving schools. This new deal eliminates that opportunity.
“It's disappointing on many levels,” Allison Bajracharya, a managing director for the California Charter Schools Association said to The Los Angeles Times. “We embraced Public School Choice as a reform initiative that could systemically change academic outcomes for students in Los Angeles. And one of the reasons it has been effective to date is because of the competition that came from these external operators.”
The new agreement comes after months of negotiating after a labor agreement expired in July, and as a part of the deal, teachers will still be working under the same terms of that previous labor agreement. While this new agreement still has to be ratified by teachers, results are expected by mid-December.
“This is groundbreaking,” Deasy said to Contra Costa Times. “This is a new way of doing things - certainly, the breadth and the scope. And it's also a new way of working together.”
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