LAUSD fails arts education test + Safe Halloween activities in South LA

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

Only 35 L.A. public schools get an A in supporting the arts: Budget cuts in LAUSD have diminished arts programs for students, but now the district is looking for new ways to reincorporate the arts into schools. (LA Times)

Families provided with safe Halloween across South LA communities: 25 intersections across South LA offered families the chance to enjoy a safe Halloween night in communities better known for violence. (ABC7)

Loss Of Child Care Affects South LA

Although President Barack Obama’s announcement of across-the-board sequester cuts just recently sparked controversy. But low-income families in Los Angeles have been feeling the reverberation of federal and statewide budget cuts since 2008. In the past few years, Los Angeles County has lost 22,000 licensed child care slots.

According to a recent study by the Advancement Project, a policy change organization headed by Los Angeles activists Molly Munger and Connie Rice, just a 10 percent funding cut would eliminate an additional 59 percent of child care seats currently available for low-income families.

This lack of affordable and trustworthy child care can affect families in multiple ways. Parents who cannot work feel the most immediate impact. Young parents unable to acquire the proper skills to improve their job prospects also suffer, according to Jacquelyn McCroskey, professor in child welfare at the University of Southern California. McCroskey has dedicated over two decades to improving outcomes for families and children in Los Angeles County.

Crystal Stairs, a nonprofit organization, also hopes to help the families affected. The organization started 30 years ago with two mothers who wanted to improve the lives of families in Los Angeles. The nonprofit is part of an advocacy project called Community Voices that includes other child care service providers such as Pathways, Advancement Project and First 5 LA.

“In the area that we serve, there is multi-generational poverty,” said Jackie Majors, CEO. “We want to provide services so they can end the poverty cycle.”

Majors’ career in child care services spans 25 years, but most of the work was in the private sector, providing services to mainly affluent families.

“Although I loved what I did for 17 years, I really think that was all about preparing me for this work,” said Majors. “Those families were going to make it no matter what I did. The families that I serve now don’t have any other resources besides us.”

Majors said her greatest satisfaction comes from receiving a letter from a family saying that with a better paying job, they no longer qualify for Crystal Stairs’ services.

In addition to the immediate impact on parents, there are often more long-term consequences for children when there is a lack of child care services.

“It also has impact on the potential for children to be as ready for school as they could be,” said McCroskey. “They won’t be able to practice early learning skills and enhance their cognitive abilities.”

These negative consequences disproportionately affect low-income families. On average, each zip code in Los Angeles lost 170 child care seats beginning in 2008. However, many zip codes in South Los Angeles and Compton lost more than 300 licensed seats each.

When Majors became CEO of Crystal Stairs two years ago, budget cuts forced her to terminate 3,000 contracts for families. However, one of Majors’ goals as CEO includes diversifying the organization’s funding to better serve families. The organization has an annual fundraiser and strives for more outside funding.

Despite budget cuts, this summer Crystal Stairs added more child care services for residents in Compton and South L.A. Although this may seem like a step in the right direction, Majors does not rejoice in this success. She believes Crystal Stairs’ expansion is an indicator of the failure of other child care service providers.

Majors and McCroskey encourage child care service providers to unite rather than view each other as competition and act territorially.

McCroskey hopes that advocates, families and child care service providers can be more organized to fight back against state or federally proposed budget cuts.

South LA residents are concerned about upcoming sequestration

By Katie Lyons

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News.

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The highly controversial sequestration has finally arrived and will go into effect starting tomorrow. Unless Congress passes a last-minute deal, $85 billion will be cut from the federal budget putting as many 750,000 federal jobs at risk.

South Los Angeles residents are worried about how the cuts will impact their lives. One resident in particular, Barry Brewer, is worried about crime. [Read more…]

Pending sequestration may affect California’s Head Start program

By Sarah Politis

Listen to an audio by Annenberg Radio News

Pending federal cuts as part of the March sequestration will affect many federal programs. Head Start, a federally-funded preschool for low-income families is one of those programs facing budget cuts.

While there are thousands of children who are part of the program, Philipa Johnson, Interim Director for the Head Start Program at USC said there are 577 children and families in the USC program alone. image

“We’re addressing a need in the community which is to provide quality services to families and high quality education to children from birth to age 5,” Johnson said.

While there is nothing on paper to confirm the sequestor, Johnson is preparing for a five percent cut in funding. Johnson said these cuts would result in personnel cuts and limit the budget for student field trips.

According to a press release from Rick Mockler, the Executive Director of Head Star, an estimated 27,000 children and their families will be dropped from the program in California and about 6,000 staff members will lose their jobs.

“I don’t see where it will impact the children because we will still provide the health services, the educational services, services to children with disabilities,” Johnson said, “We’ll still provide food, nutritional serevices, we will continue providing services, so I don’t really see that, that’s really the framework of the Head Start program.”

However, Head Start isn’t the only federal program on the chopping block. Defense workers and national parks also face cuts.

Adult education faces elimination by LAUSD budget cuts

imageIn the midst of major budget cuts, the LAUSD has sent its newest and most impactful subject to the chopping block. And people aren’t happy.

The latest budget proposal shows the 120-million-dollar division of the adult and career education will be left with nothing for the 2012-2013 school year.

More than 350,000 students in Los Angeles currently take part in adult education programs ranging from high school completion courses to career classes.

“This is what democracy looks like,” said Raul Alvarez, Vice President of the United Teachers of LA. “We don’t understand why in this recession, they don’t understand that we need more job training, not less. A child needs not only school, but their whole family. Adult education helps parents and parents help children.”

This past school year, the LAUSD graduated a lowly 56% of its high school students. And in the past, adult education has been the safety net, allowing those who dropped out of high school a second chance at higher education; and it was successful.

Approximately 1,500 former high school dropouts graduated from the LAUSD Adult and Career Division programs last year.

The budget is to be voted upon next Tuesday.

WIC fears budget cuts will take a bite out of food programs

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

WIC’s initials stand for “Women, Infants and Children,” and in Los Angeles, it serves 300,000 of them with healthy foods each month. Unlike food stamps, the program is limited to pregnant women and children under five, and provides vouchers for specific items.

One recipient is Alejandra Delfin, a mother of three, who says WIC provides a majority of her children’s food.

“They like the cereals, they like the fruits, they like nectarines,” she said. “They like peanut butter, the bread they give too, milk, eggs…they like everything WIC gives.”

Beyond the groceries, Delfin says, WIC is part of her community. She has been coming to the office on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Vermont Avenue for ten years, since she was pregnant with her oldest son. Her workplace is only doors away.

Inside the bland strip mall storefront, she sees familiar faces – Celia, Sandra, Alba – who have walked her through everything from how to breastfeed to the best afternoon snacks. Her son does well in school, she says, because she learned how to feed him a healthy diet.

Kiran Saluja, the deputy director of WIC in Los Angeles, says that is the kind of support the program aims to give.

“We are the extended family,” she says. “People don’t have those any more. We are the tios, and the tias, and the aunts.”

But, Saluja says, federal spending cuts could put tens of thousands of the people using WIC on a waiting list for aid. Pregnant women, the main focus of the program, would be given priority.

“If these cuts go through that would be the cruelest cut of them all, because we’d be telling a mother who’s pregnant, and maybe has a three-year-old, ‘We can serve you, but we can’t serve your three-year-old,'” Saluja says. “And no mother can do that.”

The cuts could also have a broader economic impact on the community, affecting stores like Mother’s Nutritional Center, a chain that sells only WIC foods.

“You can send a child into our store with five dollars, and they won’t be able to buy anything except nutritious products,” boasts manager Nancy Knauer. “They won’t be able to buy candy, liquor, cigarettes, snacks, everything is healthy.”

But Knauer worries that cuts to the program would lead the store to lay off some of its employees, 80 percent of whom are also WIC recipients.

“If we have to lay off people, then it really affects the community also,” she says. “The spending power – last year, more than 4.6 billion dollars nationwide was spent on WIC. So if that money is taken away, it affects every local community that we operate out of.”

That community includes people like Francy Anino, the mother of three-year-old twin boys. As she watches them playing with a puzzle in the WIC office, she admits that she doesn’t know what she would do without the aid.

“Spend a lot of money that I don’t have?” she says with a laugh. “Borrow money from people? I don’t know. I only have a part time job. It’s insane how much it’s helped.”

The proposed cuts to WIC are part of a bill that would reduce federal spending by $40 billion. Lawmakers who support it say that it is necessary to address the country’s growing budget deficit. Congress is expected to vote on the measure later this fall.

Sit-in CSU Fullerton aimed at raising awareness about budget cuts

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Sleeping bags and boxes of food lined the halls of the administration building at CSU Fullerton on Thursday. However, students weren’t preparing for the outdoors. They were protesting budget cuts and tuition hikes to raise awareness for the issue.

“It’s kind of uncomfortable at times,” said David Inga, a fourth-year history major at CSU Fullerton. “I mean, it can get kind of cold in here. Not really being able to shower. But I mean for the most part, I think everybody has helped each other to make it as comfortable as possible and as relaxed as possible.”

Inga was also one of the dozens of students who started the protest after President Milton Gordon refused to sign a statement the students called a “Declaration to Defend Public Education.”

Last night, six Cal State University campuses joined the sit-in to support the efforts of the Fullerton students.

“So, last night it was so crazy,” said Jaimee Dee, a CSU Fullerton student who stayed over night. “I’ve never seen so many students on this level before. There were students sleeping all the way through the back corridor and around through the lobby area — just sleeping bags and just trying to walk back form the bathroom, you had to be careful not to step on everyone.”

However, university officials said they aren’t the ones in charge of the slashed budgets. Christopher Bugbee, a CSU Fullerton spokesperson, says that students should be standing up to Sacramento instead.

“The issue does not lie on the campuses of California’s public educational institutions,” Bugbee said. “But it in fact lies in Sacramento, with the inability of the state legislature to address this issue.”

Just last fall, tuition was raised 15 percent to reduce the budget gap. And students are worried that Cal State Universities will face another budget short fall — that is, if the legislature passes Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $500 million CSU budget cut.

Inglewood Teachers Association protests potential layoffs

Protesters gathered outside Bennett-Kew Elementary School in Inglewood Wednesday to protest the budget cuts that potentially could lead to the layoffs of over half of the Inglewood Unified School District’s employees.

Read the complete story.

Bus riders protest cuts to bus routes and services

Listen to audio from Annenberg Radio News:


The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed reductions to the public transportation system in early February. Eleven Los Angeles Metro bus routes would be cut, while others would have their services and hours reduced. Crystal McMillan, a rider and member of the bus riders union, knows what this will do.

McMillan: I know what that means to a bus rider. That means instead of being able to take one bus all the way from my home to my work, I suddenly have to take three buses. That means my commute went from an hour to an hour and a half. That means I suddenly have to find a way to afford a pass because my commute is going to cost a lot more.

MTA officials say these changes are needed to better integrate services between Metro buses and trains and also to save money. Hector Garcia is a security worker and bus rider. Like many others, he depends on public transportation’s late-night hours to get to work.

Garcia: We can’t afford these cuts. Our jobs are not a regular, 40-hour, 9-5, Monday to Friday job. We work every day of the week around the clock. It’s a 24/7 job. We need the buses. We can’t afford these cuts.

Senator Boxer and Representative Mica will be in Los Angeles tomorrow morning to hold a bipartisan hearing on transportation needs. Members of the Bus Riders Union, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and transportation officials are expected to attend.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Trojan

More stories related to public transportation in South Los Angeles:

Inglewood expands free trolley service

Unemployed call for MTA to speed up transit plans and create jobs

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