Over 60 teachers at Santee Education Complex conducted a one (1) hour strike during the first hour of school on Friday March 27th, 2009. Chants of "Not to my school, not to my students" and "When they say cut back, we say fight back" filled the air. The teachers of Santee were mad but more importantly, the teachers at Santee were organized.
Although faced with the possibility of losing their jobs, the teachers conquered their fears and went on strike to defend the education of their students and to defend their dignity as teachers who deserve to remain in the classroom.
Over 55 teachers, or almost one third, of the teachers at Santee have received termination letters. Teachers participated in the one hour strike to make two important statements. First, to highlight the disproportionate number of teachers that are being cut in inner-city schools like Santee when compared to schools in more affluent parts of Los Angeles. Only 7 teachers at Cleveland High (in the valley) and only 13 West Hollywood High teachers received termination letters.
"When LAUSD speaks of budget cuts, it is important to remember that what they are really talking about is cuts that will affect poor and students of color the hardest." stated Jose Lara, social studies teacher at Santee.
The second statement teachers made was a call to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who last year successfully took over management of Santee and nine other LAUSD schools, to raise money to stop cuts to schools under his management. One sign read "Mayor, got leadership? Will you back teachers and students in your partnership?" This was in direct reference to the fact that San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom, used the City's rain day funds to stop layoffs in the San Francisco School District, while the Los Angeles Mayor has done little to stop cuts in the ten schools under his management.
The teachers walked up and down the front of the school at times to the cheering crowd of students who were locked up inside the school gates and prohibited from coming outside and joining their teachers. Spirits were high among teachers who conducted numerous press interviews with local media stations.
At the end of the rally the teachers went back into the classroom to teach and talk about the important lesson that was taught that morning; like Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez before them, they must also stand up for their rights and stop these educational cuts that are disproportionately affecting socially and economically disadvantaged schools. Santee teachers vowed that if necessary, they will come out again to rally to defend the education of their students.
The one hour strike and rally ended without incident and the students still received a quality education.
For video and Pictures of the action at Santee please visit:
Jose Lara is a father, social justice educator and community activist. He is the UTLA Chapter chair at Santee Education Complex and the Chair of the UTLA Chicano/Latino Committee. Email the author