United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents L.A. Unified’s instructors, announced Thursday a 91 percent vote of no confidence against school district Superintendent John Deasy.
“We need to share with the school board our belief that, in many ways, the educational program is not on the right track,” said union president Warren Fletcher at a news conference to announce the vote results.
Less than 60 percent of the union’s 32,000 members voted at school sites on a ballot that had two questions. One question asked teachers whether they have confidence in Deasy’s leadership. The responses: 16,040 voted no; 1,647 voted yes.
Fletcher said teachers are upset that Deasy’s reforms are creating an environment in which teachers aren’t being treated as education professionals. “The excessive reliance on testing, the excessive reliance on what we in the teaching profession call ‘phony reforms,’ are taking the focus away from what teaching and learning are really about and are harming the district,” Fletcher said.
The teachers' union hasn’t had a sympathetic majority on the L.A. Unified school board for six years. A largely pro-union board member, Steve Zimmer, fended off a re-election challenge last month. And a pro-union candidate is in a runoff next month. “This isn’t about political capital," said Fletcher, "it is about making a better LAUSD."
Teachers also approved a road map for the school district called “An Initiative for The Schools L.A. Students Deserve.” The plan calls for reducing class sizes, ending excessive student testing, and restoring funding to adult education and early childhood education. That initiative was approved by 77 percent of teachers who voted. Union leaders said they will present this plan to the school board at a later date.
Superintendent Deasy, the target of the teachers’ no-confidence vote, would not comment Thursday. But education advocacy groups that support Deasy’s policy made themselves heard on the same day the teachers union vote was announced.
Thursday morning, eight groups that have largely supported the policies of Deasy and board president Monica Garcia announced they were banding together to support the superintendent and creating a coalition to that end.
“Within two years that we’ve seen John Deasy in office, we’ve seen our graduations increase," said Ryan Smith of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "We’ve seen suspensions down. And not everything is perfect, but I think within two years John Deasy has made an impact."
The United Way joins Alliance for a Better Community, Community Coalition, Educators 4 Excellence, Families in Schools, Inner City Struggle, Los Angeles Urban League, and Teach Plus in the coalition. The no-confidence vote against Deasy comes as Mayor Antonio Villariagosa is about to step down as mayor.
During his tenure, Villaraigosa has supported Garcia and Deasy, and used his office as a bully pulpit to help elect school board members allied with his education reform policies. “Yes, it’s at a time when the mayor leaves,” said the United Way’s Smith, “but we want to create a long-lasting coalition that’ll be able to really continue to advocate on behalf of students and families.”