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Teachers camp out to protest layoffs

June 2, 2009 5:17:09 AM PDT
A group of frustrated teachers spent all night camped out in front of Liechty Middle School to protest budget cuts and proposed layoffs. Many are also taking part in a hunger strike.About 20 teachers set up tents in front of the school in the Pico Union District Monday night.

The teachers say the goal of the campout is to draw attention to the pending layoffs in the Los Angeles Unified School District. They hope the district and the teachers union can get together to figure out a way to avoid layoffs and shrink the budget deficit.

"This neighborhood hasn't had a middle school in over 10 years and it opened two years ago, and just within those two years we've created a real community around the school," said Julie Van Winkle, a teacher at Liechty.

Lincoln High School English teacher Sean Leys and some of the other teachers are also taking part in a hunger strike.

"I live in East L.A., I teach in East L.A. and I really believe that education for our kids is a life and death issue for some of them and this is as big a civil rights issue as any I've known," said Leys.

Thousands of LAUSD teachers are facing layoffs in June. Forty-seven of the 65 teachers at Liechty Middle School have received layoff notices.

"At this point it isn't about my job. It might have started that way, but it's not about that," said teacher Danya Villanueva. "It's about how the cuts are severely impacting students in low-socioeconomic communities."

"We didn't have any money, but yet we were able to come up with trillions of dollars or billions of dollars to bailout banks and General Motors," said Martin Terrones, a community activist. "Why not treat the education department like as if it was a bank? You know what, I'd rather be in debt and try to get out of debt bailing out the education system than be bailing out banks and General Motors and all those companies."

The teachers say they will spend the next two more nights camped out in front of the school. There will be a couple of other campouts throughout the week as well.

The LAUSD is facing a $700 million budget deficit. A final word on layoffs is expected by the end of the month, with June 30 being the last day for many teachers who have received pink slips.

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