Teachers and parents made their way to schools in Mar Vista and throughout LAUSD on Tuesday morning dressed in red shirts and waving signs that read, “Education Can’t Wait.”
United Teachers’ Los Angeles organized the protest to raise awareness about the cuts to K-12 education slated for this summer, after the Legislature’s failure to agree on a budget with certain tax extensions.
At Walgrove Elementary from 7:30 to 8 a.m., about 50 parents, students, teachers and other staffers handed out information to passers-by. The school has three teachers who received Reduction in Force letters this spring, meaning they may be among the 7,000 districtwide employees who will lose their jobs if the state does not agree to extend tax increases or find some other source of revenue.
“We’re out here to save our teachers. Without them we don’t have the education our kids all need,” Michelle Dean, one of the mothers protesting at Walgrove, told Patch. “Our teachers are amazing and we can’t lose any of them.”
Parent Francine Nellis was even more emphatic. “Three of our most dynamic teachers all got pink slips. I’m pissed!” she said.
Elvia Perez is one of those teachers. She joined the demonstrators Tuesday, saying, “I’m out here for the kids. I just don’t think it’s fair that every time our state has to cut funds, it’s always schools first.”
This is the second year in a row that Perez has received an RIF notice. Last year, she said, “I was in even worse shape because I was getting my master’s and I was pregnant.” Her job was saved when the teachers union struck a deal with the school district to cut five days off the end of the school year but preserve class sizes and teachers’ jobs for 2010-2011.
“Having this feeling of fear and uncertainty that I won’t be able to do what I love so much is just taking a toll on me,” Perez said. “Aside from the financial strain it will cause my family, it’s emotionally draining. I have been teaching for seven years and have always dedicated myself to my school community and my students.”
Zeena Pliska, a Walgrove teacher and UTLA member, told Patch the union’s goal during Tuesday’s protests was to make voters aware of the severity of the threat to education funding. Teachers distributed fliers asking concerned residents to contact state Assembly committee on revenue and taxation Chairman Henry T. Perea and Vice Chairman Tim Donnelly to urge them to send AB 1130 to the chamber for a vote.
The bill would tax Californians earning more than $500,000 a year an additional 1 percent. UTLA estimates AB 1130 would generate an additional $2.3 billion in revenue for the state. Although the bill doesn’t direct the money to education spending, Pliska said the presumption is that the revenue would go first to education.
Teachers also distributed a flier announcing that UTLA and the California Federation of Teachers will hold a protest in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles and at other sites at 4 p.m. Friday to demand that the state pass the tax increase bill and maintain current education spending. The rallies will be the culmination of a week of statewide protests.
“Everyone needs to understand that whether your child goes to private or public school, or if your children are grown or you have none, the lack of adequate funding for education affects us all,” said Perez. “These children are the future lawyers, doctors, teachers, leaders and working members of our society.”