Students, parents and teachers from throughout Los Angeles County rallied on the steps of Susan Miller Dorsey High School on Thursday, Nov. 19 to demand that the Los Angeles Unified School District improve conditions impacting Los Angeles schools.
Supported by UTLA members, the protestors voiced their concerns to Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Government Relations representative Pedro Salcedo, who was present to hear the grievances.
The state of California’s new funding process, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which encourages stakeholder participation in the LAUSD’s budget, requires all school districts to have a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) that describes how they will meet the annual goals for all students. The protestors wanted to ensure that the LCAP would reflect their demands.
Despite repeated complaints by parents, teachers and students district-wide, stakeholders said that their previous demands to improve schools have gone unanswered.
“I’ve met with students from all over Los Angeles County, from the Valley, South and East L. A. and the West side, and we all agree on four demands,” said Dorsey student Tyonna Hatchett, a student leader in the Schools LA Students Deserve Grassroots Coalition. “We need reduced class sizes, at least one college counselor on every campus, fully-funded health care centers, and elective teachers on every campus.”
Parent Michelle Toblett added, “We demand that the LAUSD include in the LCAP that every high school have a college counselor on campus. Every student should know how to submit college applications and how to pass the SAT and the ACT.”
The high drop-out rate was a concern for Karimu, the director of the Parent Center at Dorsey. “There is an epidemic in the U. S. of our black and brown babies failing,” she pointed out. “Our students need help. There is a great need to pull students out of class and to give them personal attention.”
Regina Adams, a parent advocate representing Dorsey and Baldwin Hills Elementary schools, felt that the LAUSD needed to reinstate “hands on” elective classes into the school curriculum.
“Not every student is going to make it to college,” she pointed out. “Life skills such as cooking, sewing, woodshop, and automotive classes need to be brought back into the classroom so that the students will be more eager to come to school. Learning is not always about sitting in front of a computer.”
Rodney Lusain, a history teacher at Los Angeles High School, agreed. “We need better electives so that there is a connection for the student between school, work and jobs.”
“We can’t wait any longer,” declared Brenda Hearn, who was upset that overcrowded classes were prevalent in the district. “There should be no more than 27 students in a high school class and no more than 25 students in a middle school class. It’s a disservice.”
Hearn felt that the needs of students and parents have been continually ignored by the LAUSD. “We have been at the bottom for far too long. Educate our kids, LAUSD,” Hearn advised. “We are watching you.”
Kevin Wadalley, an advanced placement student attending Dorsey, was also concerned about overcrowded classes. “If there are 40 kids in a classroom and they’re sharing desks and can’t see the chalk board, what good is trying to learn?” Wadalley pointed out.
“I’m demanding that the LAUSD take future funding and invest it back into our schools,” said parent Kimberly Gaines. “I have a Type 1 diabetic child and I want to see full time health centers at every school.”
Jacqueline Pouzeaud, a teacher at Alta Loma Elementary school, added that the schools are “falling apart.” “I think the district is disconnected from the teachers and the children,” she said. “We don’t even have physical education teachers. That’s ridiculous.”
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl announced that the Los Angeles School District could be severely impacted by a recent proposal by billionaire Eli Broad and Walmart, who were backing a plan to funnel “half a billion to a billion dollars” into establishing privatized charter schools that could enroll half the students from the LAUSD school district.
“I am concerned that charter schools are not required to accept English learners, students with special needs, or any other low-performing students,” said Dorsey High teacher and UTLA representative Sharonne Hapuarachy.
“Let’s make sure that Eli Broad and Walmart don’t come in and destroy our schools,” added Caputo-Pearl.
After listening to several hours’ of testimony, Salcedo said he was sympathetic to the protesters’ demands. He added that in recent years, the LAUSD had undergone billions of dollars in budget cuts.
Salcedo assured parents, students and teachers that their demands would be taken under serious consideration. “The Board of Education will make the final decision about resources. We will come out with a community report in January and we will give this report to our leadership to review the budget.”