A group of over 50 parents, teachers, and young students marched in front of the Roberti Early Education Center on Vernon and Central Avenues on Monday to protest proposed LAUSD budget cuts.
In an effort to balance the district’s budget, the LA Unified School District proposed eliminating the $45 million School Readiness Language Development Program, in which 13,000 four-year-olds are enrolled in half-day sessions aimed at helping them help improve their English skills. It would also cut $18 million from early education programs next school year. This is 93% of the amount they currently receive. A large majority of the 107 early education facilities in Los Angeles will be forced to shut down.
The David Roberti Early Education Center is one of the centers that would have to close down next school year. The Roberti Center, alone, educates about 100 children a year, and still has a waiting list of families trying to get in.
Martha Bayer, a chairperson for United Teachers Los Angeles, estimates that 34,000 children will no longer have a place to attend school.
Early education centers educate children throughout the day, and give them the foundation they need to succeed once they enter elementary school. Advocates say the centers are vital for the children and for their families.
Many of the families at David Roberti Early Education Center are low-income families with two working parents. When these centers close, working parents will no longer have a place for their children to go during the day.
“I think my wife is going to have to stop working now if they close the center. I don’t know if we could find a babysitter, besides the pay is high,” said Lester Granados, a parent of a child at Roberti.
Granados feels that not only is childcare vital to the community, but also the education the students receive at the centers. Speaking of hiring a babysitter, he said, “ They’re never going to teach them, it’s not the same.”
Preschool education is vital to many of these children’s success. Bayer said that a child entering kindergarten without a preschool education is already 18 months behind students who did receive early education. She said that many students never catch up completely; citing studies that say by the age of 30, those with a preschool education have higher degrees and higher income than those without the same education.
Sarah Knopp, a teacher at Central Region High School in LA, regularly sees the long-term effects of early education on her high school students. She attended the rally on Monday to stand in solidarity with those fighting for early education.
“That [cutting early education] is going to eventually affect me, just like it’s going to eventually affect everyone, because elementary education gives such a good foundation for kids, and by the time, they reach me, 12 years from now, they’re not going to have that education,” said Knopp.
The proposed budget cuts will affect families and whole communities during the 2012- 2013 school year. Supporters and parents of early education students, who are fighting these cuts, recognize that they are not only fighting for a block of education, but for an entire foundation and a future.
“I think it’s something the government, the state is robbing from us,” said Granados. “It’s something that’s really going to kill our community, and the aspirations that kids can have in the future to become and be someone—even one of the members of the board or governors.”
Editor’s note: On Tuesday afternoon, the LAUSD Board of Education voted to delay a decision on these cuts. The Board instructed LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to negotiate with school labor unions measures that could cut costs with an eye toward reducing the scope of the cuts to early childhood education and adult education programs. The Board also authorized Deasy to prepare a parcel tax to put before voters in an effort to reduce the district’s estimated $557 million deficit in 2012-13.