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L.A. teachers camp out to protest cuts

June 9, 2009 8:36:21 AM PDT
The front lawn of Abraham Lincoln High School has been transformed into a temporary camp site, set up to make a statement.English teacher Sean Leys is one of two people on day 14 of the Hungry for a Better Education Fast. Supporters are putting down their knives and forks in an attempt to put pressure on the LAUSD board.

Leys is calling on the school board to avoid cuts that affect the classroom.

"Teachers have agreed that we would rather take pay cuts than see teachers laid off and to see our children hurt, but the district refuses to negotiate," he said.

Nine people started fasting, and only two have made it this far, but they're getting the support of 100 others, who are skipping meals for 24 hours in a show of solidarity.

Teachers have been camping out overnight at different schools to draw attention to the impact of budget cuts to education.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said actions like camping out may have meaning, but do not solve the problem.

Cortines said the district has allocated $113 million in federal stimulus money to schools, which has spared 3,400 teachers from layoffs.

Teachers and students are also protesting increased class sizes.

"When you have one teacher trying to teach 40 students, trying to talk over 40 students, you will have some trouble. Some of our teachers can overpower that, but a good majority of them can't," said Alex Lum, a 10th-grader at Lincoln High.

Cortines stressed that the district simply has no money.

Leys said the district should spend the rest of the stimulus money now so teachers like Melissa Crabtree, a fourth-year teacher who received a pink slip, will have a job in the fall.

"They are taking the politically easy way out, and they're trying to balance the budget on the backs of children," Leys said.

Crabtree said she realizes money is tight, but questions how it is being spent.

"Is cutting teachers and enlarging class sizes, is that really where you want to cut? Or are there other places we can cut? I mean, I'm pretty sure that if you look at L.A. Unified, you can find other things," Crabtree said. "It is such a behemoth that it would shock me if there were not other areas that you can cut."

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