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'Teachers: True or False?'

July 28, 1986

Your editorial (July 20), "Teachers: True or False?" stated that teacher organizations were "tardy and tentative" in our support of educational reform. United Teachers of Los Angeles has long advocated and supported educational reform. United Teachers Los Angeles supported the Education Reform Bill in 1984 as well as the 1985 California Commission on the Teaching Profession Report, and we support the recent Carnegie Forum Report.

Teachers understand better than anyone the problems with education today and the need for change. Only change will allow us to do our job as we know it should be done. Because of the present system, few college graduates are entering teaching, and record numbers of teachers are leaving our schools every year.

The result is the growing crisis of a severe teacher shortage. Los Angeles will be short about 3,000 fully credentialed teachers for the 1986-87 school year. Reform must be made if public education is to be revitalized. In the past, attempts at reform has only "meant longer days and a longer school year for an already overworked teaching force."

The Legislature and local districts conveniently overlook reform recommendations that call for more autonomy, and a competitive professional salary. A new Los Angeles Unified School District teacher with five years of college earned $20,600 in 1985-86. That is about 40% less than the starting salaries of other college graduates. Teachers want reform. We know that reform must take place. But, we want the reformers to go beyond the easy recommendations.

The Legislature and school districts usually only want reforms that don't cost any money or don't affect the administrative power of local district officials. We must reform all aspects of the school system, and not just standards for teachers. Superintendents and boards of education are very reluctant to support and often oppose reforms that will give teachers true professional autonomy, and thereby diminish district bureaucratic power.

UTLA is ready and willing to support educational reform. If school districts can be convinced to stop paying lip service to reform while trying to maintain the status quo by holding on to their total bureaucratic control, some meaningful educational changes could occur.

Teachers are tired of being the scapegoat for the problems of public education. Teachers are victims of the bureaucratic system because of circumstances beyond our control, such as large classes, shortage of books and supplies, lack of administrative support, and lack of student discipline. We hope the Legislature and the school district will join UTLA and work for implementation of all the recommended reforms--not just the painless ones.

WAYNE JOHNSON

Los Angeles

Johnson is president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

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