Teachers file suit to block plan by LAUSD
Hoping to block Los Angeles Unified's bold reform plan that opens the doors for charter operators and other outside entities to take over public schools, the teachers union filed a lawsuit Monday that says the plan violates state law.
Under LAUSD's School Choice plan, approved by the Board of Education this August, some 220 outside groups have submitted bids to run 36 new and underperforming schools.
The deadline to apply for the schools is next month, with the school board expected to decide winners in February. Daily operations will be turned over by fall of 2010.
But United Teachers Los Angeles leaders claim that schools cannot be converted to charters - publicly funded but independently operated schools - unless a majority of teachers at an existing campus approves the charter conversion.
"No reform is going to work if you start by breaking the law," said A.J. Duffy, UTLA president, at a news conference Monday at Garfield High school in East Los Angeles.
"We are in favor of positive change and real reform ... but not the giveaway of schools. If a charter wants one of these schools they need to make the teachers' voices heard."
The union is particularly opposed to charters because the campuses are not required to hire union employees.
Included in the School Choice plan are 24 new schools, built to relieve overcrowding at older campuses.
The 220 bidders include charter school operators, teachers 'groups and nonprofit organizations.
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A majority of the bids received from charter school operators were for the two dozen new schools. Those bidders included Green Dot, Alliance for College Ready Public Schools and Ivy Academia in the San Fernando Valley.
UTLA said according to state law, teachers at the existing schools that will be relieved by the new campuses legally have the right to decide whether new schools can be converted to a charter.
"The district's conduct violates the rights of teachers under the Charter Schools Act...," the lawsuit states. "(The act) does not allow for public conversions whether in whole or in part without a showing that a majority of the permanent teachers subject to the conversion process support the charter effort."
District officials Monday said they could not comment on pending litigation. In the past, however, the district has placed start-up charters in newly built, bond-funded campuses, without a teacher majority vote.
Also, in the School Choice application, it does not say that outside operators must adhere to existing union contracts.
Still, LAUSD Board president Monica Garcia urged the teachers union to avoid stalling needed educational reform with lengthy and costly legal battles.
"We need adults to work together for our students," Garcia said in a written statement. "The status quo is not working for too many young people."
Attorneys for UTLA said if the district is willing to include a clause that requires charter schools to have these votes among teachers, then the union would not need to file a claim.
"We are simply asking them to amend the process to include a requirement of a teacher majority vote for any charter conversions," UTLA Attorney Jesus Quinones said.
The union also says it's unfair to let charter schools occupy brand new schools, built under the district's $20 billion-plus construction plan, that many teachers, students and parents have been waited on for years.