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President of United Teachers Los Angeles on major shift in school board politics




United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl, left, speaks during a teachers union event in support of charter school oversight legislation as union-endorsed L.A. school board candidate Imelda Padilla, center, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, right, look in.
United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl, left, speaks during a teachers union event in support of charter school oversight legislation as union-endorsed L.A. school board candidate Imelda Padilla, center, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, right, look in.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC

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Votes are still being counted in Tuesday's L.A. school board election. But it's already clear that backers of charter schools won a victory.

Their candidate defeated incumbent school board president Steve Zimmer and another charter-backed candidate leads a tight race for the East Valley seat. 

This looks to be a major shift in school board politics and defeat for the teachers union.

Alex Caputo Pearl is the president of United Teachers Los Angeles. He spoke to A Martinez about the defeat.

Interview Highlights

Your group spent a lot of time, and a lot of money on your candidates in Tuesday's election - and charter school proponents also spent a lot of time and money. What happened?

"We spent money that comes out of a $9 a month donations from classroom teachers and we were not able to come close to matching the amount of money that was put in by outside billionaires who put over $10 million dollars into the school board race, making it the most expensive school board race in U.S. history and more expensive than most big city mayor's races and U.S. Senate races. So, this is a big problem that we've got billionaires out to privatize public education and set up a separate and unequal system and also while they're at it, do something that's undermining democracy."

What's the real division here? Why do teachers have a beef with the charter school movement?

"They're legally allowed to set up a separate and unequal system. They're legally allowed to not abide by conflict of interest laws and financial transparency laws and so what we're concerned about is that the ultimate undermining of the civic institution of public education which has always been a bedrock in our society."

You HAVE to work with the school board. What's your game plan, and how can teachers get a fair deal, and avoid a strike, which would be bad for everybody, but especially for kids?

"We're going to make sure that we continue our working relationship with Michelle King, she's the superintendent who comes out of decades of education experience, as a parent, as a teacher, as an administrator and of course we're going to work with school board members who have the best interest of maintaining the civic institution of public education and not just breaking it up to put public money in the hands of private interests, private charter school corporations. So, who are members who are willing to work with us of course, we're going to work with them."

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.