Armed with the hashtag #SchoolTrump, the Los Angeles teachers union announced a tweetstorm and school-site protests across the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), directed at President-Elect Donald Trump, to take place the day before his inauguration.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) say they they will lead a national demonstration on January 19 with a two-fold message: “Schools are safe zones and we reject the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda.”
The L.A. teachers union calendered this action for “before school.” Participants intend to photograph protest letters and tweet them to the President-Elect plus “march to the street holding up symbolic shields to protect our schools, students, and communities from privatization, attacks on immigrants, union-busting, and more.”
This protest reflects opposition to Trump’s campaign promises that include building a wall along the U.S. southern border and banning sanctuary cities. Although it links the anti-illegal immigrant narrative to PEOTUS, the district originally declared “safe zone” status last February in response to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdown under the Obama Administration, the Los Angeles Times reported.
UTLA also rejects Trump’s proposal of placing school choice at the center of his education plan and his pro-charter pick for U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. In their December 16 newsletter, UTLA asserts a “spirited message” unites members against alleged “bigotry given voice during the campaign, including racism, ableism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and anti-immigrant attacks.” The union that serves teachers in the nation’s second largest school district maintains it defends “access to quality public education for students.”
Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl fears so-called “Trump ripples” affecting LAUSD. In a December 20 online “perspective,” he declared UTLA must organize on January 19 to “show our students, our families, our communities, and our co-workers that we intend to protect each other, protect the civic institution of public education, and protect what public schools are about: inclusion, learning, safety, and diversity.”
The UTLA chief criticized the California Charter Schools Association’s “high praise” for DeVos, who he calls “a non-educator billionaire.” Caputo-Pearl denounced L.A.-based philanthropist Eli Broad’s ambitious plan to expand charter schools and Walmart’s Walton family. The Washington Post reported teachers unions blasted the Walton Family Foundation for backing charter schools.
While UTLA called dibs on leading the tweetstorm, the national organizer, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), disapproved of DeVos, too. The alliance declared it will not “cooperate” with Trump’s pro-school choice agenda or with his alleged “hateful rhetoric and bullying of immigrant children, LGBT students, Muslims, and others.”
AROS consists of progressive community organizations and unions that oppose charter schools, tax credits, and vouchers. Anti-school choice critics complain that charters undermine traditional public schools by diverting “billions” of public taxpayer dollars away from their coffers, are run by private entities, are not held to the same accountability standards and, are not unionized.
One of the AROS partners, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), received $900,000 from billionaire George Soros through his foundation, to organize social justice movements ahead of the 2016 GOP and DNC political conventions, the Washington Times reported in July.
The Center for Popular Democracy opposes public charters and instead advocates for community schools. In 2009, the Soros-bankrolled Center for American Progress (CAP) issued “A Look at Community Schools,” which touted “partnering” with nonprofits and local agencies for these then fledgling unionized public education alternatives to charter schools. In 2012, CAP sponsored the report, Achieving Results Through Community School Partnerships,” by the Institute for Educational Leadership’s (IEL) Coalition for Community Schools (CCS). It also promoted seeking public and private funding streams.
Additionally, the report stated:
Any type of public school can become a community school, including traditional, charter, alternative, magnet or others. The vision of a community school must be at the heart of emerging place-based initiatives, including Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, cradle-to-career programs, and P-20 networks integrating educational opportunities from preschool through college.
Full-service community schools pack wrap-around academic, social, emotional, and behavioral health programs, family support, youth development, service learning, wellness, social justice, purported achievement gap closing methodologies, and even parenting classes into this “hub” of family life. The Coalition for Community Schools considers the public-private partnership one of its four required components. They list affiliated philanthropic nonprofits as United Way of The National Capital Area, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, the Mott Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, named for the same breakfast cereal company that pulled advertising from the Breitbart News site.
In 2012, Arne Duncan, former Obama administration education secretary, affirmed his support for community school, which are akin to “promise schools,” the co-initiative between AFT President Randi Weingarten’s Reclaiming the Promise and the Albert Shanker Institute.
Caputo-Pearl believes LAUSD sits at “ground zero” in a battle with pro-charter school forces. He leaned on “those California and Los Angeles Democrats” who have supported charters to make a “clear and public choice” and rally around the “unions behind a vision for Community Schools,” which he calls high-quality, equitable, and accessible education for all students. Although UTLA persistently lobbies against school vouchers, tax credit programs, and “attempts to break up the school district,”they represent 1,000 teachers and other certificated staff at unionized LAUSD charters schools.
UTLA traces its activism back to the 1970’s; however, a backlash against taxes in 1978 ended with the passage of Proposition 13 which, to this day, limits the amount of property tax dollars California public schools can capture. The union is affiliated with the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which boasts 120,000 members, and the 325,000 member California Teachers Association (CTA). The latter dubs itself the “preeminent voice” for the state’s educators, public schools, and colleges. Through its state-level affiliations, UTLA is part of national powerhouse teachers unions the National Education Agency (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) AFL-CIO.
Online, UTLA houses the downloadable protest flyer to #SchoolTrump in both English and Spanish.
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