Students Camp on LAUSD Doorstep Demanding Funds for Poor Kids
Calvin AlagotStudents For Education Reform camp outside LAUSD headquarters last night.
Update: Below, photos of 375 school desks marching across a closed DTLA street in recognition of 375 LAUSD kids who drop out per week. LAUSD today agrees to a deal that helps young teachers in poor schools, settling the 2010 Reed vs. California lawsuit.
Nineteen college students camped outside Los Angeles Unified School District Administrative Headquarters downtown last night to ensure a chance to speak at the 10 a.m. Board of Education meeting today, where they will urge that much of $1 billion coming to the district be spent on underserved children.
The students, members of Students For Educational Reform, want to see the money spent as Californians were promised when Gov. Jerry Brown urged voters to approve Proposition 30 income and sales tax hikes in 2012: on students from low-income households, English-language-learners and foster children.
Calvin AlagotProtesters spent an hour filling Beaudry Avenue with 375 desks for each child who drops out of LAUSD every week.
Shirley Thao, 21, a Whittier College student majoring in English says, "I'm here because I went through the system too, and it was really hard because my parents were immigrants. I want to be able to be a voice and help others not have as hard of a time as I did."
But there has been widespread doubt that the elected school board, which is under pressure from unions to give raises, will spend the money on children.
Karen Montufar-Federico, SFER California state captain, last night said, "We're out here, not going to school tomorrow, to make sure that we're the first in line to get a comment card."
Each item on the LAUSD Board's agenda is allocated just seven comment cards, which is why the group camped in line.
According to Elmer Roldan, an education program officer at United Way, South Beaudry Avenue will be shut down today in front of LAUSD Administrative Headquarters for a demonstration that will feature 375 desks spread across the street - to represent the 375 LAUSD students who drop out every week.
Maxwell Hoversten, 19, a freshman from Whittier College majoring in political science, says, "Students and families of the LAUSD have gone too long without having the voice and representation that they deserve on this board."
Students For Educational Reform are also hoping to get a high school student representative on the board so that students and parents have a voice.
Hannah Hamley-Castillo, 20, studying Anthropology, Spanish and Culture and Communities at UCLA says, "If there is a high school student on the board, they'll be able to take that information back to their high schools and they'll be more involved in the processes that are really affecting them directly."
Today, the group will be joined by 300 students, community leaders and teachers who plan to insist that the board allocate the funds to communities most in need, particularly in South Los Angeles and on the Eastside. The school board can specifically target the money thanks to recent legislation known as the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF.
Roldan, of United Way, says, "We are asking the district to ensure that when they're dividing up the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) dollars, that they take into consideration that those same kids that are dropping out are the kids that are drawing the dollars down from Sacramento. We want to make sure [those students] are the first to receive the money as the law says."
[Update at 4:50 p.m.:] At 6 a.m. authorities blocked off Beaudry Avenue in front of the LAUSD Administrative Headquarters. Three trucks pulled up and workers unloaded 375 desks, arranging them in equally spaced rows and columns to fill the entire space, from 3rd to 4th street.
The desks signified the 375 students that leave the LAUSD every week.
The LAUSD Administrative Headquarters Board Room filled to maximum capacity by 10 a.m., leaving dozens in the high noon heat.
Superintendent John Deasy introduced his proposed Local Cost Funding Formula budget for the district and presented the districts' Local Control Accountability Plan.
[Update at 5:20 p.m.:] Deasy's proposed spending today includes about $22 million to help the district settle the so-called Reed vs. California case, in which the ACLU and Public Counsel sued on behalf of 37 low-income schools hammered by teacher layoffs.
Young teachers are subjected to the "last hired, first fired" rule. And in L.A. it's a poorly kept secret that young inexperienced teachers are hired to fill positions in working-class and poor areas.
Districts officials announced today they are settling the widely-watched 2010 Reed case, having reaching an agreement with UTLA, the teachers' union.
The $22 million, which comes from Prop. 30, will be used to hire an extra assistant principal at the 37 schools, plus another counselor or social worker at each school, and will provide additional teacher mentoring.
But far more important, the deal allows LAUSD to hang onto its young teachers during layoffs, sparing the low-income schools from debilitating layoffs, as long as those teachers have taken "special training" from the district. The deal utilizes a loophole in the state education code that allows districts to "skip over" young teachers during layoff periods if they've taken extra training.
The district will pay for the special training that protects young teachers, as part of the $22 million.
Alex Molina, chief labor and employment counsel for LAUSD, told LA Weekly:
"We're all hoping there will not be layoffs, period. That was the whole point of getting Prop. 30 passed, reversing the whole horrible thing."
Hillel Aron also contributed to this report.
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