Hundreds of teachers, students and parents filled Pershing Square Friday to protest against proposed budget cuts by Gov. Jerry Brown, and to call on the state legislature to extend current tax hikes so that education funding will not be cut.
The event was one of five throughout the state, including a rally in Sacramento, where California Teachers Assn. President David Sanchez was arrested, along with 25 others. San Diego, San Francisco and San Bernardino also hosted rallies. The protests were the finale of a week-long series of events designed to bring attention to education funding.
Nearly $20 billion in cuts have hit K-12 schools and state-funded colleges in the last three years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Protestors held up signs and chanted throughout Pershing Square. Live music and the smell of food did not distract from the message both students and their instructors were trying to make.
“We’re saving our schools,” said Stephanie Mkhlian, a student at Montbello High School. “Our Cal State’s, our UC’s … we’re losing everyone.”
Others were also concerned about class sizes.
“I want them to know that I don’t want classrooms that are 40 students, 50 students, let alone 30 is a lot,” said Hamilton High Student Gabriella Cevallos. “We are not going to be able to learn like that.”
“It’s important that we extend the tax bill so that we don’t have more kids in every classroom,” said Dustin Fieldhouse, a 7th grade math teacher from Anaheim.
LAUSD sent 7,000 preliminary layoff notices to employees, according to the Times. The district is facing a shortfall of about $400 million. One of those employees, Kendra Hall, was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the district Thursday night, and was given her “pink slip” Friday morning.
“I’ve been teaching since 1987 and I just lost my job,” Hall said. She teaches music at Mulholland Middle School in Van Nuys.
Other employees that were deeply affected were school librarians. They were brought to a makeshift court in downtown Friday morning and were interrogated by lawyers, who were asking them why they believe they deserve to stay employed.
“I’m out of work. I’m out of work. Myself and 85 other teacher-librarians,” said Melinda Bedenbaugh, a teacher-librarian at Vista Middle School in Van Nuys. “We were on trial. … We’ve been having to give testimony on our competency.”