Los Angeles students protesting neglect of poorer schools took to the streets, and they brought their desks with them.
Some 375 empty desks blocked a downtown street, stopping traffic for several hours Tuesday outside the Los Angeles Unified School District’s offices.
Organizers say the number represents how many students drop out of the district’s schools each week.
Protesters want a student voice on the school board, and more funding for English language learners, foster children and low-income students.
District officials declined to comment on the protest.
Students Camp on LAUSD Doorstep Demanding Funds for Poor Kids
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.
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 Haversten, 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.”