November and December proved interesting times for teachers and their unions as the calendar marched toward 2014. While some unions are protecting teachers accused of abusing children, other teacher groups voted to decertify their union.
In the first major development, the Los Angeles School Report, an online reform news site, highlighted the National Day of Action sponsored by the teachers unions. On that day, the American Federation of Teachers nationally emphasized “The Principles that Unite Us.” The AFT’s California affiliate is the California Federation of Teachers, the state’s second largest teachers union.
The “Principles that Unite Us” took a controversial tactic in California, as CFT unions showed their solidarity with teachers accused of abuse against children. The affiliated United Teachers Los Angeles website promoting the events said the vigils were part of a”protest for justice” for the teachers.
But there was no teacher vigil for justice for the kids allegedly abused by those teachers.
“Currently, 260 such teachers are caught in so-called ‘teacher jails,’ the consequence of what UTLA President Warren Fletcher describes as a ‘broken’ teacher dismissal process,” reported the Los Angeles School Report. “He blames Superintendent John Deasy,” the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“In recent years, since Deasy became superintendent, we have lots of people who just languish for weeks and months without any idea of what they’re accused of,” Fletcher told LA School Report. “It’s kafka-esque, it really is.”
“Jailed” teachers don’t really go to jail; they are paid their regular salaries to sit in school district holding facilities during school hours, and go home at the end of the day. The “teacher jails” also are called “rubber rooms.”
LA School report explained the process:
“Fletcher said he was hopeful a board resolution passed in April would address concerns that teachers are held in limbo for too long without adequate information on allegations against them. Sponsored by Tamar Galatzan, Monica Garcia, and Bennett Kayser, the resolution sought to require the district to notify teachers of the reason for their reassignment unless otherwise directed by law enforcement. It also resolved to create a separate team of professionally trained investigators to look into issues of misconduct.
“’Our goal is to get in front of the employees the nature of the accusations as soon as we’re able to do that, but typically that’s not going to be the moment they’re housed,’ LA Unified General Counsel David Holmquist said in an interview with LA School Report. ‘We house employees so that we can conduct an investigation, and to ensure student safety, and to the extent that teachers’ rights would conflict with student safety, we’re always going to side with the students.’
“Holmquist said law enforcement agencies typically advise district officials not to say anything about a case until the investigation is completed. Timetables are uncertain, he added, because investigators sometimes discover more victims. ‘We share Mr. Fletcher’s goal of having expedited investigations, but when you have, as of today, 260 housed employees, it takes a while to do thorough investigations,’ Holmquist said.
“Holmquist calls speculation by Fletcher that the district disproportionally targets older teachers closer to retirement ‘absolutely false.’ Fletcher said the union can only corroborate the claims anecdotally because the district withholds demographic information. As a result, the union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district to get the information.
“’The District will not give us data about who’s located where, and it makes it very difficult for UTLA to represent its members,’ Fletcher said. ‘UTLA needs to be a part of this process. We can’t even tell who comes and who goes.’”
Teachers vote to decertify unions
In the second major development, three different teachers groups voted on whether to continue to be represented by the California Teachers Association, or be represented by an independent association. They overwhelmingly voted for independence and ousted the CTA, the state’s largest teachers union.
Teachers from Corning Union High School District, Millville Elementary School District and Springville Union Elementary School District signed petitions to decertify the CTA as the union representing them. They opted for independent associations and will retain a labor law firm to provide any necessary legal services.
“For those of us that supported this change, it came down to saving a substantial amount of money in dues, securing a higher level of service for our members, and regaining control of our Association and our agenda,” said Lance Alldrin, president of the newly created Corning Independent Teachers Association (and former President of the Corning Teachers Association, the CTA affiliate at Corning Union HSD), the Corning Observer reported.
California teachers pay $1,000 or more in union dues under the CTA model. Independent teachers associations have complete autonomy on setting dues, but the typical savings is at least $500 per year for each teacher.
“Teachers have been essentially stuck in a monopoly arrangement with CTA charging extremely high dues and providing a level of service that many teachers feel is not a good value,” said Raphael Ruano, an attorney who helped the teachers during the decertification process. Ruano said law firms can provide teachers tailored representation that “allows each association to focus their energy and resources on the issues that matter most to them.”
Even more interesting, Ruano said he expects more decertification petitions in 2014.