Hundreds of high school students protest teacher cuts: About 2,250 teachers are expected to lose jobs as L.A. Unified tries to balance its budget.
By Howard Blume From the Los Angeles Times
May 23, 2009 -- Hundreds of Los Angeles high school students stayed out of class on Friday to protest looming teacher layoffs. At one school, they also threatened to boycott important state testing that starts next week.
The largest demonstration involved about 450 students from the Santee Education Complex, who marched three miles to the downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The students were demonstrating against pending layoffs intended to help ease a $596.1-million budget gap for the district next year. The projected shortfall grew as much as $400 million this week in the wake of further declines in state revenue and the defeat of ballot measures in the May 19 special election.
Smaller protests Friday involved students from Lincoln High in Lincoln Heights and from Manual Arts High and West Adams Preparatory High, southwest of downtown.
"This is only the beginning," said Korrine Robinson, an 18-year-old Santee senior. "What I'm hoping for is that the bigger people upstairs will take notice."
Supt. Ramon C. Cortines told students that so far he had no viable alternative to cuts that he also disliked. Separately, officials announced that about 400 fewer teachers would be laid off because of early retirements and spending decisions made by governing councils at school sites. That still leaves about 2,250 teachers who are expected to lose jobs.
To apply more pressure, Santee student organizers threatened to boycott state testing, which begins Tuesday for two-thirds of students at 33 secondary schools that operate on year-round calendars. These tests help determine a school's academic ranking.
Santee Principal Richard Chavez said any boycotting students could face the loss of privileges, including attending graduation ceremonies and next week's prom.
School police arrested two students during the protest: one for having smoking paraphernalia and another for possessing a lighter. They were held for processing in the smokers' patio outside district headquarters, which sent a number of adult smokers scurrying.
On Monday, during a rally at Santee, police ticketed three students for disorderly conduct.
Some student organizers on Friday wouldn't give their names, saying they feared retribution from administrators.
World history teacher Ron Gochez said he appreciated the students' support. "It's a very interesting sentiment on campus," Gochez said. "Teachers are almost depending on the students because it's the last opportunity to do something." More than 30 teachers at Santee could lose their jobs, he added.
Miguel Chay, a 10th grader who twisted his knee playing in a soccer league, walked all the way on crutches. "They're firing teachers, and I don't want to be without education," he said.
A Day Like This: STORM BREWING AT SANTEE
Santee Students Discuss Their Next Move
May 21, 2009 -- According to reports earlier today from Jose Lara, a teacher at Santee Education Complex, students are prepping for a walkout in the coming days. Teachers are also preparing for a hunger strike. However, in the last few hours Lara reports that Santee High School is “on lockdown” and that students from Manual Arts School and West Adams have walked out and are circling Santee in an act of solidarity.
A storm is brewing within the LAUSD. Last night, teachers, parents and students couldn’t help but express anger at a community forum hosted by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. PLAS officials, CEO Marshal Tuck and Superintendent Angela Bass headed the meeting, which was organized in response to student protests at Santee Education Complex on Monday. Although LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines was rumored to attend, students were disappointed when he was a n0-show. They entered the auditorium chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, budget cuts have got to go” and waving hand-made signs, before retreating to the back of the room to await the Superintendent’s appearance. The media, too, had got wind of the potential guest appearance and were out in abundance. However, it soon became apparent that the forum was not going to be as dramatic as those in attendance anticipated. After briefly interviewing a couple of parents and a student, the TV crews promptly left.
Activist Tells Parents: "Your Children are getting a poor education."
Tuck handed out “update” sheets on the budget crisis within the LAUSD, outlining the deficit - which, he said, has increased from $600 million to almost $1 billion following the defeat of Propositions 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E in the local elections on Tuesday. He also emphasized that the LAUSD had, to date, retracted notices for 2000 permanent teachers. At Santee, this means a reduction from 55 to 22 lay-offs. “Remember, we all want the same thing.” said Tuck. “Teachers are the most important part of the learning process.” But Tuck also offered a warning: Santee should not stage any more protests that interupt student learning. Students should not walk out of school or strike. “Action can be loud and strong outside the school day,” said Tuck.
Christian, a student at Santee, said that the protests were a necessary way to bring much-needed attention to the issue. Attendees at the community forum were surprised and dismayed that “powerful” officials were not participating in the dialogue. “These cuts are mostly affecting low-income, Latino and African American schools. What is the Mayor doing?” one parent asked.
One student interrupted the meeting to say, “I just want to ask the question that is on everyone’s mind: Where is Cortines?”
Listen to the students chanting, and hear how PLAS CEO Marshal Tuck answered that question: