Fellow Latino Dem puts De Leon on spot over Vergara

Fellow Latino Dem puts De Leon on spot over Vergara

kevin.de.leonThe most powerful Latino politician in California is being called out over how he will respond to the Vergara decision, which held that teacher tenure laws punish minority students in Golden State public schools. Kevin De Leon, who will soon take over as president of the California Senate, was cited in an O.C. Register column by another  Los Angeles Democrat — former state Sen. Gloria Romero — who wonders if he will back a bill expanding tenure rights that is advancing in the Legislature. It goes directly against the intent of the Vergara ruling:

“The fight for education reform has reached a critical juncture. Many want to see whether politicians continue to kowtow to powerful special interests, or muster the courage to stand up for millions of poor and minority children seeking justice when the Education Committee reconvenes.

“What leadership will newly elected Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, exhibit? Will he show allegiance to his former employer – CTA – and urge the bill’s passage? Or as the first modern-era Latino Senate president, will he respect a court ruling on behalf of poor and Latino students, urge defeat and instruct the Legislature to start rewriting statutes now deemed unconstitutional?

“I’m hoping for the latter.”

Many years on the CTA payroll

Romero’s reference to De Leon working for at least five years for the CTA (and its parent organization, the National Education Association) gets to a striking point about elected Latino Democrats in California. All too often they were not just union members but union employees/leaders before seeking office. John Perez, the now-former Assembly speaker, is one of many Latino Dems in this camp. So their decision on whether to side with mostly white teacher unions or the Latino kids in their home districts is further complicated. Meanwhile, I’m struck by how many times commenters on the Vergara decision dismiss it as an inconsequential, sure-to-be-overruled ruling by a headline-hunting judge. It may be overruled. And any judge who invokes Brown vs. Board of Education is plainly hoping to make a splash. But inconsequential? Hardly.

Vergara goes national; will “schism” come to CA?

This Politico story from Tuesday illustrates where things are headed.

“Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.

“The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead role in the public relations initiative.

“The involvement of such high-profile Obama alumni highlights the sharp schism within the Democratic Party over education reform.

“Teachers unions have long counted on Democrats as their most loyal allies. But in the past decade, more and more big-name Democrats have split with the unions to support charter schools, tenure reform and accountability measures that hold teachers responsible for raising students’ scores on standardized tests.”

So far that “schism” hasn’t been a huge element in California politics. But between the Vergara fallout and Democratic reformer Marshall Tuck’s November general election challenge to CTA appendage/state school superintendent Tom Torlakson, 2014 could be the year it begins dividing CA Dems the way it has Dems in such states as New York and Illinois. Good.

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