Dorsey students speak out for change

Taylor Broom clung to a printed speech while walking up Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, as she marched with a moving crowd of frustrated students, parents and teachers in a rally for public education.

At the end of the march, Broom mounted a truck and read that speech to the massive crowd of protestors.

The 16-year-old Dorsey High School student spoke for her classmates who continue to see fewer textbooks and crowded classrooms.

“In my history class, there are 41 students in there. It’s affecting everyone’s learning,” said Brown during her speech.

Dorsey High School also lacks textbooks for students.

Brown said not every class has a set of books for class and for home. Students don’t lug their heavy books from home because they don’t have enough lockers to store them. They are then reprimanded for not having their books.

“I want students to have access to the best education. If we have a good education, students can’t make excuses for failing,” said Brown.

She said too many classmates are bored with school and use that as an excuse not to graduate.

Brown also talked about budget cuts last year that led to the layoffs of three counselors. Her fellow classmates mentioned long lines when trying to register for classes.

“We know [the cuts] are real and it’s happening and that we have to fight more,” said Brown.

Brown represented her school’s student group Coalition for Educational Justice.

When a teacher saw Brown in debate class, the teacher insisted she join the coalition because she “had the perfect voice for change.” She has been attending the coalition’s lunchtime meetings since November.

In the future, Brown wants to become a registered nurse.

“College was already expensive to me at first, but now it’s even more [so],” said Brown.

Pershing Square erupts in protest

imageWhen Rene Casanova first started classes at South Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, he had no trouble getting into the courses he needed to graduate.

Even if he wanted to add a course he hadn’t registered for prior to the start of the semester, Casanova said he was “pretty much guaranteed” to get into the class.

Four years later, the philosophy and religion double major still has a two semesters to go before he has enough credits to transfer to a four-year university to complete his bachelor’s degree.

Chaffey has cut the number of sections it offers per course in order to stay afloat despite dramatic state budget cuts.

“I’ll get two or three [classes] and then I’ll try to add but that’s pretty much a jungle because you have 30 or 40 people trying to get a class and there’s only three or four spaces left,” Casanova said. “The budget’s all messed up. The priority of the government is wrong … the greatest goal should be education.”

Casanova joined thousands of parents, students, and educators in Los Angeles in Pershing Square on Thursday to rally against potential teacher lay offs and a proposed $2.4 billion cut to K-12 schools and $97.5 million cut to community colleges.

Cuts to the University of California system have caused tuition to rise 61 percent in five years. That percentage is 68 percent for the California State University system.

The March 4 Day of Action originated from an October education conference held at UC Berkeley and morphed into a statewide movement.

Thursday’s event precedes a 48-day march from Bakersfield to Sacramento, which kicks off March 5 and concludes with a rally on the steps of the state capitol April 21 to lobby legislators to support education

On Thursday, chants of “keep public education free, no cuts, no fees,” and “hey, hey, ho ho, budget cuts have got to go” punctuated the march as demonstrators walked shoulder-to-shoulder from Pershing Square to a cluster of government buildings located on Spring Street.

Walking alongside several of his students, Central Los Angeles High School #9 history teacher Kyle Laughlin said his arts-centered campus will “really feel the cuts.”

‘I’m here to support arts programs across the state and my students,” he said. “They deserve better.”

Parent Alana Estrada, who has a kindergartener at Wilton Place School, held a sign that read, “I thought mom said ‘education is the only thing no one can take away from you.’”

“We’re here to …send a message to Sacramento that this is unacceptable,” she said. “Everyone has the right to an education.”

Photo credit: Ariel Edwards Levy

A CRISIS OF PRIORITIES – March 4 Day of Action, Downtown Los Angeles – 2010