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OPINION: Why I march for education today

By Jose Lara, Social Justice Educator, Santee Education Complex High School

imageEducation is a field I love, but currently it is in crisis. The State of California continues to make cuts in education while local school boards continue to raise class sizes, cutting teachers, art programs, and simultaneously dismantling Adult, Career and Technical Education.

I will be marching on March 4th because I wish to take a stand for quality public education. I wish to show my students that education is worth fighting for that they should not take cuts sitting down. I hope to model for my students, show them the importance of civic engagement and encourage them to become scholar-activists. It has never been more important for educators to take a stand. The dignity of our profession, the rights of our students, and the fate of our public schools depends on it.

“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

From today’s march:

From United Teachers Los Angeles: Thursday, March 4th: a Statewide Day of Action:

On March 4, UTLA members hand out informational flyers to parents

UTLA members are encouraged to attend one of four after school rallies at the following locations:

Downtown Los Angeles location
4:00 pm (Gather at 5th and Hill by Pershing Square)
4:30 pm-6:00 pm (March and rally at Reagan State Building-300 South Spring Street)

UCLA location
4:30 pm-5:30 pm ( Rally at Bruin Plaza)

San Fernando Valley location (Cal State Northridge)
3:45 pm ( Gather in the quad)
4:15 pm (March around CSUN)
5pm-5:30 pm (Unity action and rally at CSUN quad)

Long Beach rally location
4:15 pm (Gather and rally at Wilson High School gymnasium- 4400 East 10th Street, Long Beach)

Telling the stories of undocumented youth

A new documentary that depicts the struggles of undocumented immigrant youths and the effort to help them become citizens will be screened on Tuesday in Gardena.

The film, “Papers,” features interviews with five undocumented immigrant youths as well as with teachers, politicians and immigration experts. Much of the film discusses the efforts to pass the federal DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have served in the military or completed two years of higher education.

A discussion with director Anne Galisky and others will follow the screening of the film.

In an interview last week, Galisky said she and her partner, producer Rebecca Shine, pressed to finish the film quickly. They shot their final footage at a June rally in Washington, D.C., in support of the DREAM Act and finished the film in September.

“We were responding to the urgency young people have been telling us that they have about this issue,” she said.

Galisky and Shine, of Portland, Ore., began to develop the idea for “Papers” two years ago. They both had mentored high school students and had heard the stories of Latino youths who lacked citizenship and were faced with limits on what they could do after graduation.

California’s response

Undocumented immigrants can attend school through 12th grade and in some states, including California, are eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges through Assembly Bill 540. But lacking a Social Security number, they cannot get federal financial aid or work legally.

As they started talking about making the movie, the filmmakers also were concerned about local ballot measures targeting undocumented immigrants and the Oregon governor’s decision to issue an executive order tightening rules for receiving driver’s licenses.

According to “Papers,” 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S., including two million children. In the film, teachers talk about how many students begin their high school careers working hard in school, only to be discouraged when they understand the barriers they face to getting a college education and pursuing careers.

The problem doesn’t just affect Latino youths. One of the students in the film is Asian while another is from Jamaica.

All of the students who tell their stories are identified in the film only by their first names. One, Monica, is now living in the United States legally, but the rest all could be deported and took a risk by appearing in the film, Galisky said.

She said telling their stories seemed to help those who felt depressed about their circumstances.

“It feels good to speak out and to not be in hiding,” Galisky said.

DREAM Act’s future

The DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, was first introduced in Congress in 2001. Some urge the passage of the legislation before addressing more sweeping immigration reform. Others want to focus on comprehensive reform to the nation’s immigration system. At a town meeting a few weeks ago at California State University-Dominguez Hills with the White House officials studying ways to improve education opportunities for Latino youth, officials said the Obama administration plans to reintroduce a version of the DREAM Act, but the White House is in the midst of conversations whether to include the legislation in immigration reform or in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

Galisky said she would like to see some type of victory for immigration rights activists, but isn’t urging a particular approach.

“My job is to bring the subject to the awareness of the broader community,” she said.

“Papers” will be shown at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Gardena Cinema, 14948 Crenshaw Boulevard, Gardena. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for a pre-show, featuring music and a few short videos. After the film there will be a panel discussion including Galisky; William Perez, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University; and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
Tickets are $5. Information: 310-217-0505. To learn more about the movie, visit

The community comes together to fight for educational rights

California is facing the biggest education spending cuts in history, as well as thousands of job losses for teachers working in South LA’s classrooms. Community forums, like the one held on March 30th at the Baha’i Faith Center in Baldwin Park, are bringing educators, students and residents together to make a stand against what some believe to be a violation of the next generation’s constitutional rights. Equal access to education, especially in Title I, low-income schools like Crenshaw High School and Dorsey High School, is being jeopardized in a state ranked 47th in the nation for per-student spending.