Thursday, June 03, 2010

STUDENTS PROTEST TEACHERS' FURLOUGHS: More than 200 hold a “Walk-In” at Cleveland High School

Written by Alex Garcia San Fernando Sun Contributing Writer

Thursday, 03 June 2010 -- Last Friday was the first of 12 scheduled furlough days for all Los Angeles Unified School District employees.
But even though there were no teachers or classes, some 200 Cleveland High School students still showed up at the school to protest the education cuts that have led to the campus being closed.

"We're here to show our commitment to education. That even though there's no school, we love to learn," said Paula Kahn, an 11th grader who organized the "walk-in".

Carrying protest signs, the students gathered at the school gates and then walked around the perimeter chanting slogans against education cuts before returning to campus. Two Cleveland High School teachers joined the students during their

"We did this for a symbolic reason. Rather than walk out of school on a school day, which could be very chaotic and misinterpreted as careless, we decided to 'walk-in' to school to show how much we value our education," said Kahn. "This will hopefully pressure people in power to care more about our future and work with us to improve school conditions."

Kahn said she understood a large LAUSD deficit led to the furloughs, which were meant to save teachers' positions.
"Although it has been done to save jobs, it shouldn't have come to that in the first place," she noted. "Education should be a top priority, but it has become one of California's last priorities".

Those were the same sentiments of Marisol Cabrera, an 18- year-old senior who took part in the demonstration along with her mother, Leticia.

"I have younger siblings and they're going to be affected by these cuts," said Marisol, who noted California is number one in prison spending and 47th in education funding. "There should be more money for schools and teachers. It's unfair," she said.
"These closures set them back," said Leticia, who currently has five children in LAUSD schools, three in high schools, one in middle school and one in elementary school. "Instead of coming to school every day, they [the students] lose all this time." In addition, the students learned recently the school will no longer allow them to meet and organize on campus, as they had been doing.

In early April, the LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles [UTLA] reached an agreement that allowed them to save 2,100 positions, including 1,421 teachers, as well as librarians, counselors and other staff. The terms called for the teachers to accept five unpaid furlough days, resulting in a shortened 2009-2010 school year, and seven unpaid furlough days [including two pupil-free days] and a shortened school year for 2010-2011.

"I am very pleased," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines in a press release issued after the agreement was reached. "I appreciate the understanding of the District's teachers and the sacrifices they are making in instructional time and salary."

The District faces a $640 million budget deficit for the 2010- 2011 school year and a projected deficit of $263 million in 2011- 2012. The LAUSD reported the shorter school year and unpaid furlough days would generate an estimated $147 million in savings that will be used to address the deficit.

"I am elated. In these tough financial times, the vote to approve the agreement demonstrates the deep commitment to our students and to LAUSD that is shared by the majority of our teachers," added Board Member Nury Martinez at the time. Martinez represents LAUSD district 2, which covers the east San Fernando Valley. "Their vote renews my faith in all LAUSD stakeholders moving forward together to demand fairer funding for our schools."

Cleveland art teacher Paola Prato, one of the teachers who took part in the protest, said the economic impact of these furloughs on educators was low compared to the detriment to student's education because of the fewer days of instruction.

"If they don't get an education, they're not going to get a job that is going to make them better citizens," said Prato, who graduated from Cleveland High School and has taught there for the last 10 years. She said despite the rescinding of teacher's layoff notices, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future.

"They have approved 12 furlough days in the next two years and we're not sure what's going to happen in 2011," she said.
Prato said she was proud that students had organized the protest on their own.

"They're showing that whenever you're denied something, you want it more," added Prato.

Khan said she understood a single protest at a high school will not convince authorities to increase education funding, but she still felt it was important to express their sentiments.

"Nothing's going to change today," she said. "This is to inspire others and those who come after us that we can change things."
She added they will continue doing these and other actions to get their point across until someone listens.

"This is how change starts," she said.

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