UTLA Rallies Downtown Against Budget Cuts and Layoffs
About 800 teachers, parents and students showed up Tuesday afternoon at the headquarters of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Beaudry Avenue downtown to protest planned layoffs for thousands of teachers, as well as cuts to art classes, adult and early childhood education.
“We’re fed up, ain’t going to take it no more,” the protesters chanted in unison, holding signs and banners. “The people united, will never be defeated.”
The L.A. Unified Board of Education voted Tuesday on an updated plan that would offset a $390-million hole in its $6-billion budget by cutting adult and early education and elementary arts programs.
The district planned to mail out more than 11,700 preliminary pink slips to educators and other employees, Superintendent John Deasy said Monday.
During the rally, a group of students danced freestyle to Hispanic music. Other protesters soon joined in, moving in circles while waving their protest signs. Noise from bongo drums, bells, whistles and water bottles filled with red beans filled the air.
The demonstration continued with a short dramatic interpretation, “The Wizards of Beaudry.” Eight performers dressed as witches and fairies spoke of better ways to fund educational programs, mocking the headquarters building as a “prison."
“It’s a shoddy education and it lacks imagination if it hasn’t any art,” a fairy sang.
Teachers took turns speaking on the stage. They echoed the chants and cheers from the audience and honks from cars passing by.
“They voted 6-to-1 to continue to cut adult education—what do you think about that?” one speaker asked. The audience booed in response.
The school district has already sent pink slips to 9,500 UTLA members, roughly 25 percent of the city's educators, according to union president Warren Fletcher.
Fletcher called the number of pink slips issued “historic” and said the school board “will destroy the district” if all of these employees are out of work on July 1.
“We were told that they (LAUSD) are thinking about rescinding some of those pink slips on May 15," he said. "That means you have 9,500 educators who will have a sword over their head, who will have their career dangling from now 'til May."
“They didn’t promise to do anything. They’re just talking about ‘some’,” he said.
Fletcher urged board members to reverse thousands of the more than 11,000 preliminary pink notices sent out to educators.
Jose Lara teaches social justice and history at Santee High School. He demanded the school district reprioritize to put their money in existing programs, and stop the new teacher evaluation system that will cost millions of dollars.
“We want them to stop privatizing education," Lara said. "We want them to stop because it’s ruining our schools."
Alex Caputo-Pearl, a social studies and history teacher at Crenshaw High School, said, “The only thing that’s going to save different programs is building a movement on the ground to demand what the public should have in a truly public education system, which is K-12, pre-school and adult school.” Caputo-Pearl said his son, a second-grader at Castle Heights Elementary, is facing a larger class size due to the budget cuts.
Gillian Russom, a history teacher from Roosevelt High School, called for the school district to open up their budget for public scrutiny.
“Things like costs for travel and conference, contracts with corporations for materials or testing—why is that going up while they’re cutting teachers?" Russom said. "Education is not expendable."
Reach Staff Reporter Gracie Zheng here.