Dec 12, 2005
In November, students at South Gate High School in a working-class community near Los Angeles organized a sit-in. For two days, as many as 500 students refused to go to class, rallying together on the football field bleachers. The students voiced their anger over the severe shortage of full-time teachers, classroom space, desks and books. And they were angry that courses required for graduation, as well as some after-school activities, are unavailable.
South Gate, which is part of the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD), got a new, additional high school this year, enrolling 2,000 students. It was supposed to relieve the severe overcrowding at South Gate High. It was also supposed to allow a switch from the year-round schedule, which provided for only 163 school days, to the traditional, 180-day September-June schedule. But when the school year began in September, school officials explained away the overcrowding – pretending that “additional” students who had been in private and parochial schools came back to the public school when it switched to the traditional schedule.
Even if this were true, how is it possible that the two schools are so overcrowded only because a couple hundred more students than expected registered? There wasn’t enough room to begin with.
The conditions that students and teachers face at South Gate are typical throughout the L.A. school district, where classrooms are increasingly starved of money and resources, as budget cuts year after year take hold.
It’s not that there is no money. L.A. voters passed several bond measures over the last decade, and the LAUSD has launched a 15-billion-dollar construction project.
But where has all the money gone if newly built schools are not helping to ease the overcrowding and provide a decent education for all students? One thing is sure: these taxpayer billions are enriching contractors.
The real issue here is that the education of students from working class backgrounds takes a very low priority in a society run on a capitalist basis.
The protests at South Gate High show that there are plenty of students – supported by their parents and teachers – who are unwilling to accept the conditions imposed on them. Their actions can change the situation.