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UTLA to protest at schools this week; hundreds of charter parents object

Mike Szymanski | May 2, 2016

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The charter parents’ letter set up in UTLA’s lobby. (Credit: CCSA)

UTLA is helping parents organize protests on May 4 at schools throughout the district, and in a letter more than 500 charter school parents are asking to stop it.

The Reclaim Our Schools protest is part of a nationally scheduled demonstration for Wednesday, and UTLA says 80 cities and counties have signed up to rally against a proliferation of charter schools.

The national group, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, issued a statement explaining: “As public schools are increasingly threatened by a view of education that supports privatization, zero-tolerance discipline policies, less funding, and high-stakes standardized tests, AROS is fighting back with a broad vision of American public education that prioritizes racial justice, equity and well-resourced, world-class, public community schools.”

The national organization has schools from Pulaski County, Ark., to Tomahawk, Wis., ready to protest before school on Wednesday and then have the students and teachers walk in to the school to begin classes as scheduled. The organizers said they are objecting to “a national movement to Reclaim Our Schools from privatization efforts that will bankrupt public education, we will stand with Los Angeles parents, educators, students, administrators, and community members for fully funded public schools and call on corporate charter schools to pay their fair share to the district.”

Meanwhile, in front of the UTLA offices, an enlarged letter from charter school parents asked that the teachers union stop the protest. The letter was signed by 527 charter school parents and was put out for display at various entrances of the offices on Wilshire Boulevard.

“We are asking you to stop,” said the letter directed at UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl. “You plan to stage demonstrations at charter schools sharing campuses with district schools. If these actions are anything like the ones we’ve endured in the past, they will be threatening, disruptive and full of lies. We will be shouted at, maligned and disrespected, our children will ask us what they’ve done wrong, and their teachers will, as always, be expected to rise above it all.”

About 170 LA Unified schools and 20,000 people in 40 cities took part in a similar “walk-in” on Feb. 17 and did not disrupt the school day, according to Caputo-Pearl. The demonstrations took place well before school started and included speeches from students, teachers, politicians and community activists. At Hamilton High School, school board president Steve Zimmer spoke as well as Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

Wednesday’s demonstration is designed o be very similar and include social media campaigns including #FightingForFunding #ReclaimOurSchoools and #TeachingNotTesting. In their information and instructions distributed by UTLA parent organizer Esperanza Martinez, the demonstrators suggest an open mic for people to speak, a march and a chant and even “tombstones with writing of programs/materials that the school needs or once had.” In the UTLA-distributed suggestions for a school demonstration, Martinez recommends one last chant go on at 7:45 a.m. and by 7:50 a.m., “Everyone goes to work!”

The protesters said that they want to focus “on the need for full staffing or stopping a potential co-location.” The co-location issue erupted recently at a school in Chinatown over a charter school asking to use rooms in the traditional school under the Prop. 39 state law.

With the letter they displayed at UTLA, families from the California Charter Schools Association tried a pre-emptive measure before the demonstrations begin. They wrote: “Once again, we are asking you to stop. On May 4, please allow our schools to remain peaceful and safe. Please do not harass us, our children, or the teachers we love. Instead of protesting us, please talk to us to find out for yourself why families choose charter schools and why we need them now more than ever.”

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