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When United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) announced that it had reached a Tentative Agreement (T.A.) with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), I was interested in getting an interview for my radio show. I spoke with Hattie McFrazier, the UTLA Board member representing Health and Human Services Professionals. She voiced her concerns, which you can hear online at the Archives under “Politics or Pedagogy?” for December 3, 2011.

After taking a closer look at the T.A. I posted the following on an educators’ listserve:

The 1% (Billionaire Boys’ Club, etc.) wants to privatize: 1) water; and, 2) education. The extreme measures taken to capture the former are well documented. Their efforts toward the latter have been effectively disguised as “education reform”. Privatizing education has two goals: 1) increase the number of charter schools; and, 2) weaken the teachers’ union.

The first goal can be marked ‘mission accomplished’. Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other city in the United States. The district loses ADA, the union loses members, the charter pays only a nominal amount for the facility and the CEO makes a huge salary. Meanwhile, charters do no better than public schools. However, their media propaganda ignores these inconvenient truths.

The second goal is to weaken the teachers’ union. Protections provided by a ‘thick contract’ are ignored. When violations occur, justice is not swift and grievances languish for years. Proper procedures, even with California regulations on our side, are routinely brushed aside. Think School Site Councils. Administrators, some more skilled than others, manipulate peer opinion. Those who speak up are castigated.

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How willing are educators to give up their contractual protections? Before Wednesday’s UTLA House meeting I floated this test question, “Do we really need to have access to the copy machine?” Most educators I spoke with jumped in with examples that supported getting rid of it. As a historical note, this right was hard-fought several decades ago. But today, with non-contractual procedures firmly in place at many school sites, rights can disappear overnight.

Now imagine if contractual protections were targeted for elimination. Our thick contract could be whittled away one school site at a time. “This is the way the contract ends. This is the way the contract ends. This is the way the contract ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper.”

Last week a CTA member called me about a problem he’s facing. He belongs to one of the groups I started, Support Cadre Resisting Administrative Maltreatment (SCRAM). Because of what’s been happening in education lately we have many members at the local, state and national levels. Not that maltreatment of educators is new; it has always existed. Sometimes, administrators themselves are targets. I was talking to a teacher who lives in Wrightwood who said that he feels sorry for principals because they never know if they are going to have a job. Those kinds of pressures have increased now that outsiders have their eyes on the piggy bank. That’s another story.

Have you ever voted on a Tentative Agreement? Please e-mail

John Cromshow

Originally posted at Ed-LA - PEAC (Progressive Educators for Action)