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Bill Tierney

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No Confidence

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In the spring, the teachers’ union in Los Angeles, UTLA, held a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent of Schools, John Deasy. The vote occurred over seven days and asked, “Do you have CONFIDENCE in John Deasy’s leadership of LAUSD?”. When voting closed, 17,687 of 33,000 union members—roughly 53%—of UTLA had voted. Of those who had voted, 91% voted no confidence in Superintendent Deasy. UTLA makes up roughly 49% of all public school teachers in Los Angeles County.

Deasy described the vote as “nonsense”. He also has repeatedly said that if the School Board lacked confidence in him he would be gone within the hour. Although I have met Mr. Deasy a handful of times and appeared on a panel with him, I do not know him or have a very good sense of his pros and cons. What I do not understand, however, is how anyone can survive where 91% of the voters have no confidence in you. Colleagues who are critics of the union have made similar comments to me when I have inquired about the vote: the union is corrupt; teachers felt intimidated and had to vote no confidence; many people did not vote, etc.

I still find the vote stunning and it gives me great pause. Regardless if my colleagues are 100% correct or 100% wrong, the vote signals a dysfunctional school district where there is little hope for reform. If all 91% of the voters are stooges of the union and the union functions like the Mafia, then change will be impossible. If the union is sound and the teachers voted of their own free will, then the relationship between the school superintendent and the teachers is not simply bad, but dysfunctional of historic proportions. If the teachers are clueless about reform and entirely in it for themselves—even if it’s “only” 91% or 53% (those who voted), then over half the teachers are unwilling to work with the superintendent.

Let me put it another way: Assume I was a man of significant wealth and wanted to donate to public education. Why would I put a nickel into a school district that had a vote of this kind for whatever reason? My sense would be to withhold funding until the district put its own house in order—but who can do that if the different parties are unwilling to work with one another?

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2 Responses to “No Confidence”

  1. Members of the L.A. teachers union begin casting ballots Tuesday in a symbolic confidence-vote referendum on L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.

    07/16/2013 at 3:35 pm
  2. non aca #

    49% of people had no confidence. that means 51% did.

    you are too far removed from practitioners to understand schools.

    07/12/2013 at 11:56 pm