LAUSD to be ‘occupied’
The “occupation movement” continues to expand as teachers and workers who call themselves, Occupy Los Angeles Unified School District, decided on Friday to begin an occupation of the area surrounding LAUSD headquarters.
The occupation date was voted on and is set to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 18, following a rally and march at the Occupy Los Angeles site at City Hall.
Although the group is not yet officially endorsed by their union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, more than fifty teachers and workers met at the UTLA building for the first time on Friday night, to begin planning for the occupation.
“There’s great momentum with Occupy L.A. and we understand that we are part of the 99 percent,” said Kathleen Hernandez of Shenandoah Elementary School. “We are working class people and we are struggling during a time when all around us there is little money for our students.
We’re being laid off and being blamed. Our collective bargaining is at threat and we understand that now is the time to act.”
Many members of Occupy LAUSD will attend the UTLA’s house of representatives meeting on Wednesday, where it will be voted on whether to officially endorse Occupy LAUSD and donate $5,000 in funds to Occupy LA.
Many concerns came up, including their rights as teachers and what actions they can take within their educational code, who will occupy while others are in the classroom, and if Tuesday is too early of a date to begin the sit-in demonstration.
After more than three hours was spent discussing peoples ideas and concerns, the group broke up into four committees: media and messaging, logistics and planning, outreach, and security.
“Community Over Millionaires” is the overarching message they decided will be used in their outreach campaign, to garner the support of teachers, students, parents and their communities.
“Education is being affected by ‘the one percent,’ by the likes of the Walton Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which are funding the privatization of schools through charter schools and standardized testing,” said Jose Lara, a teacher at Santee High School. “We know the one percent has an immediate interest in making sure education is dumbed down and isn’t based on critical thinking which is needed for a truly democratic society.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District, like many other schools throughout the nation, is facing severe underfunding because of the cuts to relieve budget shortfalls.
According to UTLA, last year approximately 2,000 teachers and school employees were laid off due to the budget cuts and more than 600 teachers were recently rehired because of a furlough day agreement and financial sacrifice accepted by other LAUSD employees.
The budget cuts has lead to understaffed schools, resulting in classroom sizes of over 40 students, which many teachers say reduces the quality of education.
This won’t be the first time teachers and school staff occupy the LAUSD building. Three years ago, LAUSD employees lead a hunger strike and encampment to stop the reduction-in-force, or RIFs, where teachers and staff were laid off due budget cuts.
“Its time to talk about the disparities we have in our schools and were borrowing from the occupy movement to really move into the education sector,” said Lara. “I think we should all be occupying our own spaces – electrical workers, minors, nurses. We all need to start occupying and retaking what’s rightfully ours.”