L.A. School Teachers Protest End To Popular Nursing Program
Teachers of the East Los Angeles Occupational Center (ELAOC) appeared Tuesday before the Los Angeles Unified School District board to protest the cancellation of the 60-year-old Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program.
With a $2,000 annual tuition, the 12-person program offers a nursing education at a fraction of the cost of private schools—some of which cost over $50,000—and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate into a high-demand industry. "It is terrible that they are closing [the LVN]; it is a great program with over 400 applicants a year. They really should be opening more programs," said Matthew Kogan, the United Teachers Los Angeles' (UTLA) Adult & Occupational Education committee chairman in an interview.
Kogan criticized the board's decision as prioritizing bureaucratic goals over community benefit. "[LAUSD wants] quick certificates for low wage jobs," Kogan said, adding that they focus on four-month programs rather than 12-month programs like the LVN, to increase graduate turnover and improve reported numbers.
This logic is misleading, said Chapter Chair of ELAOC Laura Vasquez, who pointed out that although graduate turnover is increased with shorter programs, students leave with a skill-set that leads to lower average wages. Graduates of a comparable four-month program, which produces certified nursing assistants, can expect to make $8 to $11 an hour, whereas graduates of the 12-month LVN program can expect to make $11 an hour or more.
Vasquez rebutted the LAUSD's claim that the LVN program lacked funding by pointing out that "four [ELAOC administrators] retired this year, all of whom were planned for in the budget. That’s why I say there is a lack of will, not a lack of funding."
Had the meeting not ended early, LVN students were prepared to give remarks to support the program's revival.
Latasha Valentine, a student who was waitlisted to the now non-existent LVN program, would have asked board members to "come see my community." In East Los Angeles, "What do you see on every single corner? Nail salons. We don't need any more of those. We need more courses that are going to train us for high-demand jobs, like the LVN, where we are going to be able to pay the bills, be able to feed our children, put clothes on their backs. Being a manicurist is not going to do it."
Current student Benjamin Gilvan praised the low price of the program. "I couldn’t afford to go to school if it weren’t for public education. I'm looking forward to giving back and helping people, which is why I wanted to become a nurse. I am thankful I got the opportunity with the LVN program, but I feel bad for everyone in East Los Angeles who is not going to get that chance." Students interested in public nurse training now have to apply to programs over 20 miles away.
In a complaint to the LAUSD earlier this year, Kogan affirmed that the demand for trained nurses is increasing. "The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that licensed vocational nurses' employment is projected to grow at a much faster rate than average [and that] overall job prospects are very good... Why is LAUSD going in such a different direction?"
The LAUSD communications office declined to comment.