By Tina Gutierrez
Dec. 11, 2013
|A school bus parks outside Dorsey High School on Farmdale Ave. Tina Gutierrez photo.|
“It’s about time.” Well, according the United Teachers Los Angeles Union, it is time for a raise for teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District, or LAUSD.
It all went down on Wednesday Nov. 13, when teachers from across the district gathered outside 333 S. Beaudry Ave. The teachers marched around with banners and signs to make sure their demands to rang loud and clear to the LAUSD offices up above.
At the rally, teachers like kindergarten Jesenia Chavez expressed their frustration at the system but also for media coverage of the schools’ ability or inability to educate the students of Los Angeles.
"I feel like we've been getting attacked a lot in the media. And I feel that it's important for the community and for the school board to see that we are not just going to stand back and let them create the narrative," Chavez said.
Other expressed similar frustrations with signs calling for Superintendent John Deasy to resign. Deasy's contract was recently extended to 2016 despite a less than stellar review. He did not meet eight of his nine academic goals by the end of his last term.
Deasy did, however, succeed in raising the percentage of students that feel safe at school and number of instructional days lost due to suspensions, according to a Los Angeles Times article.
While teachers didn't seem to be Deasy's biggest fans at the rally, one must note his arsenal of support from Washington D.C. and others in high places. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, is one of these.
"Achievement is up; dropout rates are down...Many more kids taking Advanced Placement classes. Suspensions are down," Duncan said in an interview on Monday Nov. 11. "Many more students are on track to hit [college preparation] requirements. Community engagement is up. I don't think anybody would claim victory here, but L.A. is absolutely going in the right direction."
Progress is slow, but teachers fear these standardized tests are not encouraging improvements in the classes but rather pointing a bigger finger at teachers for the source of problems.
"The tests make us look like bad guys," Chavez said. "But the classes are too big and it is hard for any teacher to make sure each kid is learning the material."
Concern at the rally centered on the misuse of funds from Proposition 30 that passed a year ago. Funds were supposed to benefit Los Angeles' schools, but educators claim funds have not been allocated to education and are overdue.
The proposition increased taxes on those who earn over $250,000 for seven years and sales taxes by one-fourth of a cent for four years. These funds were supposed to go to schools. It also guaranteed local public safety funding and worked to balance the state budget. Now, a year later, the funds have yet to impact education in Los Angeles as promised.
The teachers' demands do not stop with a pay raise, though. The union also desires lower class size and "restoration of adult education, early childhood education, health and human services, and more," according to a pamphlet passed out at the rally and their website.
The rally was not the only place folks express their concerns for the district's work. Facebook users can leave reviews of the district on its Facebook page.
Almost all are quite critical of the district and those that aren't usually advertise for a student program or school event. From onlookers and those with a family member in the system to teachers complaining about logistical issues, most don't give LAUSD many stars.
Those in support of Deasy also stressed the importance to not do a disservice to the students by uprooting the superintendent in the middle of a school year.
“It would have a devastating effect on our children,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The UTLA President, Warren Fletcher, was less than pleased with the district's decision to keep Deasy, according to a local CBS report.
"Deasy’s leadership is anything but satisfactory. It’s a sad day when political maneuvering trumps the needs of students and schools.”
Only time will tell if the rally was a success in getting the district's attention. The is just the "first step" in the process, according to UTLA. Fletcher says it's time to get mad and not sit back quietly waiting for the Proposition 30 money to "eventually" turn into pay raises.
"To be successful, we must be willing to engage in a series of escalating actions," Fletcher said. "We must be firm and unapologetic in making our demands, and in backing them up with action...It’s time to get mad. It’s time to take a stand."
For more information or questions about the story, email the writer.
CALL AND RESPONSE
I don't know, but I’ve been told
(What time is it?) The time is NOW!
(What do we want?) A Raise!
Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho