South LA protest over early education cuts

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. image

“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.

Opinion: LAUSD continues its broken promises

imageLAUSD continues to break its promise to our community by closing adult education. Adult Ed. is one of the few places our students and community can have a second chance at receiving their high school diploma, make up a class they might have missed while in high school, improve their English skills, or simply to learn a new trade in industrial arts. Adult Ed. helps our economy by providing thousands of hard working adults and high school students with the skills they need to enter a new career.

LAUSD breaks its promise to our youngest children by planning to eliminate early education. These are pre-K classes that help children get a head start in school. Study after study show that students who are enrolled in early education classes perform better throughout their educational career; it’s a wise investment in the children’s future.* Working class parents especially depend on early education as they do not have the resources to enroll their children in expensive private schools, art and other enrichment programs.

LAUSD breaks its promise to educators by forcing them to take unnecessary furloughs this school year. In fact, teachers and health and human services professionals agreed to make a sacrifice and take up to 6 furlough days for the 2011-2012 year if California State budget projections fell short. Educators made this sacrifice to stop the increase of class sizes, shorten the school year and prevent the loss of thousands of jobs. Once December budget numbers were released, it was clear that the district received enough money to avoid furloughs for the year. However, LAUSD has continued its plans for furloughs and has not kept its promise of avoiding unnecessary furloughs. Moreover, it is doing so WITHOUT the agreement of the teachers union, UTLA.

LAUSD breaks its promise of a quality education to all our children. By shortening the school year, ending essential programs that give students and parents a second chance, and closing early education, LAUSD continues making and breaking promises. This especially affects the working class and communities of color in Los Angeles who depend on these programs for economic survival and success. LAUSD’s broken promises lead down the road to continuing poverty and the widening of the achievement gap.

It is time LAUSD keeps its promises with the community, parents, student and teachers.

What can you do?

Please call or email your school Board Member today and tell them to keep their promises. You can contact them by clicking here.

Also, join teachers, parents, various community groups and UTLA for a planned protest rally in front of LAUSD School Board on:
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Jose Lara is a Social Justice Educator at Santee High School in South Los Angeles. He also serves as Secretary of the South Central Neighborhood Council and is very involved in educational and economic justice issues is South LA.

*For study on benefits of early education click here.

New teaching techniques may help preschoolers

imageBy Jennifer Quinonez

Faaidah Ameen teaches preschool to dozens of children out of her Compton home. She has done so for more than 20 years. “These kids can learn so much in preschool to help them get ready for kindergarten, and it’s my job to help them with their social skills, reading skills and more.”

Although she has been in the early care and education field for more than two decades, Ameen says it’s never too late to learn new techniques to help children with their growth.

“I’m open to new changes, and the opportunity that LAUP is giving me is helping me understand more about my role as a teacher, and changing my habits and behavior to be better with the kids,” says Ameen.

Ameen is referring to Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) and the non-profit’s goal of improving their quality assessment program to give children a top-notch quality early education.

Since 2005, LAUP has used a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to ensure high standards at the more than 320 preschools in its network throughout Los Angeles County.

But now, the organization has decided to build on the QRIS by introducing a new measurement tool called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System).

imageCLASS is an observational evaluation that focuses on effective teaching and interactions, helping educators recognize the power of their own one-on-one connection with students. It’s based on research that indicates that interaction between children and adults is the most important relationship for development and learning.

“Our children deserve the best so that they can become creative, critical thinkers who are engaged and excited about learning for the rest of their lives,” said Alexandra Himmel, program support supervisor at LAUP.

Studies show that children in classrooms with better CLASS scores achieve at higher levels than their peers in classrooms with lower CLASS scores.

Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, each LAUP-funded preschool will be observed and evaluated by trained and certified CLASS assessors who will examine all teachers and their interactions with children (and each other) in the classroom.

“We all need a deeper understanding of how our actions and behaviors impact a child’s long-term success,“ says Himmel. “It’s about changing our classroom habits so we can be more intentional and strategic as teachers. Asking a question like, ‘How did you figure that out?’ creates a whole different kind of learning opportunity for our children.”

imageThe goal of the CLASS is to encourage positive teacher-student interactions in a well-managed environment, where a teacher provides ongoing supportive feedback, along with frequent learning activities that foster language and concept development.

“We are proud of the providers in our network who continue to strive for the best training, education and new teaching techniques to help children with their social, emotional and academic skills,” says Celia C. Ayala, Chief Executive Officer of LAUP. “If a child has confidence, it’s more likely that he or she will become a healthy, productive and responsible adult – and that is the ultimate goal for LAUP.”

Research continues to show that children who attend a high-quality preschool receive a rewarding educational experience that is filled with lifetime benefits for the child, as well as society in the form of a better workforce and lower rates of crime and health issues.

Please visit or call 866-675-5400 for more information.