Person

Alex Caputo-Pearl

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Labor Union Activist

Teacher

President, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA)

Alex Caputo-Pearl is the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) union and a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). He is an outspoken opponent of charter schools and other education reform measures.

Caputo-Pearl has always been seen as a more radical and militant teachers’ union leader. He was one of the leading members of the Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC) caucus within the UTLA.

He has a reputation for pushing teachers’ unions to champion other left-wing causes in addition their usual advocacy.

Policy Views

Caputo-Pearl is a loud critic of charter schools and other alternatives to the traditional unionized government-run school system. He condemned the 2010 film Waiting for Superman, which critiqued the traditional model. [1]

He also has stated that unions should become “social justice unions.”.[2] In a 2011 op-ed, Caputo-Pearl and a PEAC colleague attacked “privatization”, “institutionally racist urban policies”, and budget cuts that they saw as pushing students out of school. They identified their goals as fighting for full funding for schools and social services, creating schools that teach and represent social justice, and supporting the improvement of teachers and teaching in a pro-union environment.[3] Caputo-Pearl also sought greater tax increases and cuts in correctional spending.[4]

In 2012, Caputo-Pearl was profiled as an education reformer at Crenshaw High School, which was one of the worst performing high schools in Los Angeles. The reform program, which was part of something called the Extended Learning Cultural Model, was called “explicitly political” and it taught students to be “advocates” for their community. Among the programs created was the Crenshaw Social Justice and Law Academy, which was discontinued in 2013.[5] [6]

Also in 2012, Caputo-Pearl was profiled as a critic of Teach for America. He was a member of the organization’s inaugural class of teachers, but has opposed the organization’s stances on charter schools and education reform.[7]

Career

Labor Union Activism

After a stint as a teacher in the Los Angeles and Compton school districts, Caputo-Pearl was elected to the executive board of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). Caputo-Pearl was among those who dissuaded Los Angeles teachers against an illegal strike against proposed teacher layoffs in 2009.[8]

In 2013, Caputo-Pearl announced his bid for UTLA president. In his announcement email, he attacked “privatization,” “running schools like businesses,” and student testing. He assembled a ticket called Union Power, which ran on a platform supporting increased funding for schools, increased pay for teachers, and union participation in other left-wing causes.[9]

In 2014, Caputo-Pearl and his Union Power slate were elected to lead UTLA.[10]

UTLA Presidency

In 2014, Caputo-Pearl took office and within two weeks threatened a strike. He explained that he saw teacher unionism as “explicit in fighting for racial and social justice and explicit in fighting against privatization.”[11]

In 2016, he reached out to his members and encouraged them to support a $19 monthly increase in member dues. He also became more confrontational with charter schools and the school district. The union also became more visible in the media and launched a member recruitment campaign at schools.[12]

Also in 2016, Caputo-Pearl outlined an aggressive agenda that would prepare UTLA to strike in 2018. He called for a media campaign to promote the union’s ideas, an increase in property taxes, opposition to charter schools, and preparation for school board elections the following year. He also called for more members to donate to the union’s PAC.[13] UTLA also jointly affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (NEA). [14]

The union also announced plans to organize all over California. Caputo-Pearl was joined by Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union and an idol of union activists favoring a more militant approach. It sent a signal that UTLA was going to become more militant.[15]

In 2017, Caputo-Pearl and his Union Power slate were reelected. The rest of his Union Power slate won and they too avoided runoffs. Among those they defeated were veteran teachers and respected union leaders.[16]

Also in 2017, Caputo-Pearl and UTLA suffered a major setback in the school board elections. Pro-charter school candidates won a majority of the school board. Undeterred, Caputo-Pearl and UTLA announced they were “doubling down” on their opposition to charter schools.[17]

Caputo-Pearl also blamed the election defeats on “billionaires buying the school board races.” The school board president, who was pro-union, was also defeated. The unions spent $30.6 million in the school board races. He also said the “war over public schools” was a “class war.” Finally, he called for higher property taxes.[18]

Black Lives Matter

In 2018, Caputo-Pearl signed a statement in support of Black Lives Matter in school week.[19] He also began laying the foundation for a possible strike later in the year over a new contract.[20] The strike action was inspired by other teacher strikes across the country.[21]

Janus v. AFSCME

Caputo-Pearl denounced the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which forbade government worker unions from forcing dissident non-members of the union to pay union fees. He used it as an opportunity to attack the school board and its “pro-privatization leadership” for the “unregulated growth of charter schools.”[22]

References

  1. Goldstein, Dana. 2010. “Grading ‘Waiting For Superman'”. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/grading-waiting-superman/.
  2. Goldstein, Dana. 2010. “Grading ‘Waiting For Superman'”. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/grading-waiting-superman/.
  3. Caputo-Pearl, Alex, and Cathy Garcia. 2011. “Education Reform The Union Way”. Labornotes.Org. http://www.labornotes.org/2011/02/education-reform-union-way.
  4. Caputo-Pearl, Alex, and Cathy Garcia. 2011. “Education Reform The Union Way”. Labornotes.Org. http://www.labornotes.org/2011/02/education-reform-union-way.
  5. Goldstein, Dana. 2012. “Becoming Part Of The Solution”. Zócalo Public Square. http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2012/02/22/becoming-part-of-the-solution/ideas/nexus/.
  6. Goldstein, Dana. 2013. “An Activist Teacher, A Struggling School, And The School Closure Movement: A Story From L.A.”. Dana Goldstein. http://www.danagoldstein.com/2013/05/activist-teachers-targeted-for-dismissal-in-la.html.
  7. Ceronsky, James. 2012. “Teach For America’S Deep Bench”. The American Prospect. http://prospect.org/article/teach-america%E2%80%99s-deep-bench.
  8. Cook, Joshua. 2009. “LA Teacher Cuts Prompt Walkouts, Arrests, Hunger Strike”. Labornotes.Org. http://labornotes.org/2009/07/la-teacher-cuts-prompt-walkouts-arrests-hunger-strike.
  9. Scott, Norm. 2013. “Alex Caputo-Pearl Running For President Of LA Teachers Union”. Ednotesonline.Blogspot.Com. https://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2013/10/alex-caputo-pearl-running-for-president.html?m=1.
  10. Morrison, Patt. 2014. “Should L.A. Schools Be Run Like Businesses? Here’s What New UTLA Chief Alex Caputo-Pearl Says”. Latimes.Com. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-oe-morrison-caputo-pearl-20140908-column.html.
  11. Blume, Howard. 2014. “L.A. Teachers Union Leader Caputo-Pearl Links Activism To Strike”. Latimes.Com. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-caputopearl-teachers-strike-20140713-story.html#.
  12. Fensterwald, John. 2016. “Besieged Teachers Unions Reach Out To Their Members”. Edsource. https://edsource.org/2016/besieged-teachers-unions-reach-out-to-their-members/562515.
  13. Clough, Craig. 2016. “UTLA President’S Aggressive 10-Point Plan For Upcoming Battles”. Laschoolreport.Com. http://laschoolreport.com/utla-presidents-aggressive-10-point-plan-for-upcoming-battles/.
  14. Antonucci, Mike. 2016. “Commentary: LA Teachers Head Is Ready To Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met”. Laschoolreport.Com. http://laschoolreport.com/commentary-la-teachers-head-is-ready-to-incite-a-state-crisis-if-union-demands-are-not-met/.
  15. Antonucci, Mike. 2016. “Commentary: LA Teachers Head Is Ready To Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met”. Laschoolreport.Com. http://laschoolreport.com/commentary-la-teachers-head-is-ready-to-incite-a-state-crisis-if-union-demands-are-not-met/.
  16. Blume, Howard. 2017. “Alex Caputo-Pearl Wins Second Term As L.A. Teachers Union President”. Latimes.Com. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-edu-teachers-union-election-results-20170227-story.html.
  17. Shackford, Scott. 2017. “School Choice Advocates Take Control In Los Angeles”. Reason.Com. https://reason.com/blog/2017/05/19/school-choice-advocates-take-control-in.
  18. Rodriguez, Sal. 2017. “Teachers Union Boss Learns Nothing From Election Loss: Sal Rodriguez”. Daily News. https://www.dailynews.com/2017/08/11/teachers-union-boss-learns-nothing-from-election-loss-sal-rodriguez/.
  19. “Solidarity With Black Lives Matter At School Week: Nationally Renowned Antiracist Activists, Artists, Academics, Authors, And Athletes Speak Out!”. 2018. I AM AN EDUCATOR. https://iamaneducator.com/2018/01/29/solidarity-with-black-lives-matter-at-school-week-nationally-renown-antiracist-activists-artists-academics-authors-and-athletes-speak-out/.
  20. Stokes, Kyle. 2018. “LAUSD Teachers Just Took Their First Step Toward A Possible Strike”. Laist. http://www.laist.com/2018/07/02/lausd_teachers_just_took_their_first_step_toward_a_possible_strike.php.
  21. Fensterwald, John, and David Washburn. 2018. “How Teacher Strikes In Other States Help California Unions Make Their Case”. Edsource. https://edsource.org/2018/how-teacher-strikes-in-other-states-help-california-unions-make-their-case/597352.
  22. Sand, Larry. 2018. “The Janus Victory And Ongoing Whine Festival”. California Policy Center. https://californiapolicycenter.org/the-janus-victory-and-ongoing-whine-festival/.
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