UTLA held a news conference today in front of Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles--a particularly troubled school where 3,000 students learn in a space built for 1,000.
The problems at Manual Arts are about more than dealing with reduced resources. The school is currently under the management of a non-profit reform group and its influx of students is the result of a move from a year-round schedule to a traditional calendar this fall.
Representatives at the conference demanded the school district use its year-end surplus of $55 million from last school year to ease strained schools.
UTLA president Warren Fletcher says the biggest problem in LAUSD schools is overcrowded classrooms.
“We have gigantic class sizes. We have Algebra 2 classes with over 50 students. We have P.E. classes with over 80 students,” Fletcher said. “If you’re a seventh-grader and you’re in one of those ridiculously overcrowded classrooms--well--you don’t ever get to be in seventh grade again, so it is something that needs to happen now. The children can no longer wait for this.”
Manual Arts is one of two Los Angeles high schools that has been managed by independent non-profit L.A.’s Promise. The Los Angeles Times reported today that LAUSD officials are poised to retake substantial management control of the school.
While UTLA has been a critic of L.A.’s Promise, it says the district’s hoarding of its surplus funds is to blame for the troubles at Manual Arts and schools like it.
History teacher Daniel Beebe says the lack of staff is at Manual Arts is a problem
“Obviously, when you add eight, nine, 10 students to a classroom, it cuts down your ability to give the students the support and attention they deserve,” Beebe said.
A controversial state law, AB 114, was passed with the budget that prevents school districts from laying off teachers during budget shortages. UTLA says that under the law, the district has the go-ahead to bring teachers back into the classroom.
“This is a serious, serious matter, and the money is there to alleviate it,” Fletcher said. “The school board and the superintendent need to act now. We have already burned a month of school. We can’t burn a whole school year.”
Spokespersons for both LAUSD and L.A.’s Promise said they were unable to comment.