A.J. Duffy: Truly a Man for All Seasons

H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken, like recently termed out UTLA President A.J. Duffy eschewed the use of a first and middle name throughout his career, which I am sad to say is about all these two men have in common. Mencken, who was known at the “Sage of Baltimore” for his satire, wit, and journalistic excellence would have had a field day in examining the blatant hypocrisy of A.J. Duffy and his mercenary proclivities for never being fettered by any belief that he wasn’t willing to sell out…for the right price.

One of my favorite Mencken quotes is, “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” The greatest irony to this quote is that its truth depends on thwarting the difficult, repetitious, and traditionally thankless job of being a teacher, because it is the avowed purpose of the vast majority of teachers to eradicate ignorance. Duffy, on the other hand, has done everything he can throughout his career in concert with LAUSD to make sure this doesn’t happen

I have know A.J. Duffy for over 10 years from the time I first saw him operate as head of the West Area of UTLA. The thing that has always eluded me since then has been trying to understand how anybody could be taken in by an openly opportunistic, egocentric and rather pompous person that anybody from Brooklyn like him – or from L.A. for that matter – wouldn’t trust as far as they could throw him.

And yet, now people seem surprised that Duffy is going to start a charter school, while going after teacher tenure and seniority, after supposedly being anti-charter for 2 terms as UTLA President, which allowed LAUSD time to organized enough charters to now threaten the very future existence of UTLA as something that even remotely resembles a viable union. One might think that the only rational explanation of what Duffy is now doing and saying is that he has always been in bed with LAUSD.

Over the last 2 years on perdaily and long before this, I have pointed out to teachers and others how Duffy and his cabal at UTLA always did what was precisely necessary to destroy the union and the possibility of a rigorous public education for all with it.

Duffy allowed hundreds of dues paying teachers to be removed from LAUSD on bogus charges to be harassed in “rubber rooms” at LAUSD Local District Offices and elsewhere, while UTLA went through what new UTLA President Warren Fletcher has described in the past as “kabuki,” because of the highly stylized LAUSD/UTLA interaction never seemed to hold LAUSD accountable for actions in violation of California law, the LAUSD’UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, and LAUSD’s own internal bulletin policies, which LAUSD itself rarely follows.

While the Collective Bargaining Agreement and both state and federal law clearly allows UTLA to aggregate claims against LAUSD for the unceasing and unjustified attacks on teachers, Duffy and his regime not only have done nothing, but they have actually facilitated this process along with their attorneys Trygstad, Schwab & Trystad, that have gotten rich selling out completely innocent teachers in complete derogation of their respective fiduciary duties and teachers right to due process.

The latest gambit LAUSD has been playing to deal with its present $408 million budget shortfall and $15 billion of already vested – but unfunded – lifetime health benefits is to bring bogus morals charges against teachers under Education Code Section 44939 to eliminate their collective bargaining rights. What did Duffy do to stop this? NOTHING. Instead of seeking whistle blower protection under California Education Code Sections 44110-44114, Duffy, UTLA, and Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad have completely avoided this defense for their teachers, while playing along with LAUSD’s immunity under California Government Code Section 821.6

In total accord with his predecessors the late Helen Bernstein, Day Higuchi, and John Perez, Duffy has openly accepted LAUSD rules of engagement and definitions of all terms. While there is a national campaign stoked by a corporate owned mainstream media that accepts “bad teachers” as a given as to what is wrong with public education, Duffy and his ilk accept this and never bother to point out the simple reality that within the feudal structure of public education in general and LAUSD specifically, teachers have no power to bring about the changes necessary and enforcement of existing policies necessary to turn around what just might be this country’s greatest potential asset in our fight for survival of American society – public education.

Governor Romer, Admiral Brewer, Ramon Cortines, and now John Deasy have had the power and yet the only way they and their counterparts throughout this country can address the multi-generational and clearly avoidable problems they have fostered and allowed to firmly take hold on their watch is to turn a blind eye to fixed assessments, grades, attendance, promotion, and graduation without any accountability. Why take responsibility when you can always use teachers as the whipping boy for your purposefully failed public education system.

It is the ultimate chutzpah for LAUSD to now laud the supposed achievements of its students on recent testing, while turning a blind eye to the corruption that tries to sell this fraudulent result to the people of Los Angeles.

It is the same type of chutzpah that the traditionally anti-union Los Angeles Times has when its editorial staff says, “”A.J. Duffy sat in a conference room with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times and expounded on the evils of charter schools,” as if they were somehow surprised as to what a fraud Duffy is and what hypocrisy he is capable of.

It is moronic for the Los Angeles Times to then say, “No matter what motivates Duffy these days, his personal shift reflects a sea change in educational policy.” This statement is absurd on two counts:

1. Duffy has had no “personal shift,” as any teacher who has had to suffer two terms of him as president of UTLA can testify. He was an avid supporter of Pilot schools, even though it was clear from the rules of pilot schools that LAUSD had an absolute veto over who would be principal and where pilot schools had the ability to degrade the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement with little or no justification. In other words, like with LAUSD purposefully sabotaged LEARN reforms, pilot schools would be top-down business as usual for LAUSD and those political and corporate interests that keep these less than intelligent people in power.

2. There is no “sea change in educational policy” that has anything to do with A.J. Duffy’s immoral self-dealing at any cost to the teachers he was supposed to, but never did defend in any meaningful manner. This is witnessed by the latest statistics from State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), where more teachers are retiring and getting out of teaching because of the hostile working conditions, then ever before. Even 4 years ago, when LAUSD offered a golden parachute to higher paid teachers, if they would retire, the numbers nowhere came near to the mass exodus from teaching that is now taking place.

leonard isenbergThe only “sea change” in public education that was talked about 4 years ago was the critical shortage of teachers that would be caused by the retirement of the baby boomers, who would create a critical shortage of teachers by next year, but somehow that discussion is forgotten.

I guess if you don’t really have any intention of educating students, you don’t need a fairly compensated professional teacher corrupt and A. J. Duffy is your man for all seasons.

Leonard Isenberg
Perdaily

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