California Educator

May / June 2017

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than nearby traditional public schools, were built in neighborhoods that already had enough class- ro om sp a c e , w ere fo un d to h av e di scrimin ator y en ro l l m ent p o li c i e s , or en ga ge d i n u n e thi c al or corrupt practices. In addition, in some cases CMOs have been able to keep buildings used as charter schools as their private property. C MO s in fa c t h av e b ui lt v a st empire s by c on - structing private real estate holdings worth tens of m i l li o n s of d o l l a r s . Fo r e x a m p l e , th e c h a r t e r s c h o o l n e tw o r k A l l i a n c e C o l l e g e - R e a d y P u b l i c S c h o o l s b en ef it ed from over $110 mi l lion in fed eral and state taxpayer support for its facilities, which are not owned by the public, but are part of a growing empire of privat ely own ed L os Angeles area real estate now worth more than $200 million. Sometimes CMOs act as both building owner and landlord to charter schools, with a charter school pay- ing "rent" to CMOs for schools built with public funds. Bob Lawson, director of ITPI special projects, says the tangled web is often difficult to unravel. " There are so many corporatized charters that have become national chains that in many cases, you can't "All we want is a voice," says Adalinda Avila, a math teacher at the Alliance OuchiO'Donovan 612 Com plex, a charter school in Los Angeles. Educators at Alliance CollegeReady Public Schools want a voice in decision making, and the ability to negotiate working conditions and what's best for students without fear of reprisals. They want to help stop the 20 to 30 percent annual turnover of staff and be treated fairly and with respect. To make this happen, they are or ganizing to become new members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), joining growing numbers of charter school educators who see strength in numbers. Presently, there are more than 49 independent unionized schools in Los Angeles including Green Dot schools, Camino Nuevo, Los Angeles Academy, Granada Hills Charter High, Palisades Charter High, El Camino Charter High, Pacoima Charter Elementary, Mon tague Charter Elementary, Birmingham Charter High, Ivy Academia, Global el ementary and middle schools, Accelerat ed Schools, and Ocean Charter. Alliance is the largest operator of charter schools in Los Angeles, with 12,500 students in 28 schools. An or ganizing effort launched by teachers in 2015 has been met with heavy employ er resistance, including surveillance, discrimination, and blocking access to union activity. Alliance's behavior has been so extreme that the Public Employ ment Relations Board, which protects the legal right to unionize, obtained a court injunction prohibiting Alliance admin istrators from interfering with teachers' unionizing efforts. In April, a state audit found that Alli ance raised a $1.7 million war chest from private donors to fight its own teach ers and counselors, and had already spent nearly $1 million on its antiunion campaign plus $2.2 million in legal fees (excluding costs for this year). The audit also found that Alliance failed to comply with federal law on sharing parent and student information; Alliance had turned over alumni information to California Charter Schools Association to enlist par ents against teachers' efforts to organize. Teachers and parents at Alliance have denounced the actions by the charter's board and management, saying money should be spent on students, not on fight ing teachers. Prounion teachers are standing strong for social and economic justice as well, including advocating for safe schools to ensure immigrant student rights. "Unionization is not just about our school district or our profession," says Dan White, who teaches 10thgrade environmental science at Ouchi O'Donovan. "The gap between eco nomic classes is widening in America, and unions help bridge that gap and preserve the middle class." ALLIANCE ORGANIZING TO HAVE A SAY Alliance Ouchi-O'Donovan's Adalinda Avila, Dan White and Ismael Hernandez. 27 May / June 2017 Bob Lawson

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